By Anne Collier
The winning app developers of Reachout.com’s “Don’t Just Stand By” cyberbullying prevention contest not only received prize money but also serious professional mentoring:
* Timothy Mullican, 15, in Alabama, who has been writing code since he was in the 6th grade. The first-place winner, who aspires to being an information security specialist for government or the private sector, told Reachout that he “created my app so those who are being cyberbullied would have an easy way to identify and report offensive posts among their Facebook friends.” Timothy was supposed to get five hours’ mentoring but San Francisco-based software engineer Andrew Kane gave him 10 hours.
* Zuhair Chaudry, 15, in Vermont. The 2nd-place winner’s app “focuses on pledges Facebook users can make – both by telling an adult about a cyberbullying occurrence and/or writing a supportive post in those who have been cyberbullied.” Zuhair just completed his mentoring with Piyush Mangalick, a software engineer at Facebook.
* Alexa Alpern, 18, in Maryland, who placed third, is also an award-winning figure skater. She plans to major in computer animation in college, which she just started. Her app is a game that has players responding to “mock cyberbullying offenses in a chat room setting.” Alexa was mentored by Nadir Hajiyani, an engineer at DoSomething.org in New York. [Here‘s a local news story about her.]
In response to research that shows how effective it is for bystanders in bullying situations to support the victim, Reachout.com, a mental health site run by the nonprofit Inspire USA Foundation, put a call out earlier this year for programmers aged 13-18 to “help inform and empower potential bystanders.” There’s so much that’s great about this competition, from the recognition it gives young programmers who want to use their skills to make a difference to the way it paired contestants with mentors.