CATLab Blog Charles Ryu: Lifting Others Up Through Coding

Fascinated by technology and well-acquainted with adversity, Charles Ryu knows a thing or two about resilience. Born in North Korea, Charles escaped the country, not once, but twice. After his first attempt, Charles was placed in an internment camp, which he escaped again—eventually reaching the United States while still a minor. Despite not knowing English or having attended school since age 11, Charles graduated high school and eventually received a full scholarship to attend a coding bootcamp. 

Charles Ryu illustrated by Creed Bauman

At the camp, Charles’s love of developing grew quickly. “Learning about new technology was like jumping into a time machine and leaping 50 years into the future,” Charles reflects. For Charles, the ability to tell a computer to do something, to write a simple code and change the behavior of the object in front of you is an unparalleled experience. In addition to the technical discoveries, Charles loves helping others and making people’s lives easier. 

During his coding bootcamp, Charles had to keep pace with complex lectures in English, often relying on graduate level terminology to explain basic coding skills. Charles remembers thinking “wow, this is not for an ESL-speaking person. That was when God gave me a dream,” he recalls. “What if I open up a coding bootcamp, but make it easier for ESL speakers?” 

Charles Ryu

Charles wants to revolutionize the learning experience to help refugees to learn by doing. Instead of reading a 10 page essay, he wants to guide students through the practical steps required to build apps. In the future, he hopes to create a coding bootcamp that will empower refugees to pave their own way to higher education and employment. This requires perseverance in learning–– Charles wants to give 100% to people and asks for 100% back. Backed by his own life experience, he knows that his plan will require high levels of commitment and effort, but he has “a high hope for refugees because they are resilient.” As he knows well, a coding bootcamp can change someone’s life. Now, Charles works on complex coding projects at Westmont. He is currently redoing the entire college’s job application process in Salesforce, retiring extremely outdated forms and technology.

During CATLab’s recent trip to San Francisco, Charles reflected on his life while looking over the Golden Gate bridge: “The last time I was looking out over this bridge,” he says, “I wasn't in a good place. I was driving Uber, working as a sushi chef, and didn't yet know about the coding bootcamp that would change the course of my professional life.  It was also before I met the person who was to become my wife and introduce me to the Westmont community.  I had been in the US only a few years after arriving as a refugee. I felt lost and alone. Now, as I look over this bridge, I'm being paid to be here, leading a team of students on a professional adventure.  I'm responsible for managing Westmont's Salesforce code, and am part of a faith-filled community.  I'm learning something new every day.  It took almost ten years, but I have arrived. How can I make this dream possible for more?”

Illustration by Creed Bauman for the 2023 CATLab Magazine.