May 20, 2019

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They Were Promised Coding Jobs in Appalachia. Now They Say It Was a Fraud.

They Were Promised Coding Jobs in Appalachia. Now They Say It Was a Fraud.
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The promised 16-week class went on 17 weeks. Then 18, then 19. As the class continued, many students began to run out of money. Out of the more than two dozen students who began, about 10 were left by late October, some playing computer games in class to pass the time, just waiting for the final project before graduation.

Early on, Ms. Laucher had suggested the project would be something for the community, maybe a gaming app addressing the opioid epidemic. Then the project was finally announced: the design of a website for a pet bed-and-breakfast that Ms. Laucher’s mother was opening in Pennsylvania.

But Stephanie Frame was still a believer. When word spread of a trip by the Mined Minds leadership to a tech conference in Lithuania in November, she saw an opportunity. She had never been out of the country, but this was a way to lock in a job, for her and for her daughter. Her husband agreed to spend $1,000 on the trip.

“If I could hang with them,” she remembered thinking, “be one of them, show them how dedicated I am, how much I supported them, then we’ve got it.”

While Stephanie and others were in Lithuania, the rest of the class was debating whether to stick it out to graduation. A news station in Pennsylvania had reported on problems with the Mined Minds program there, including that nearly all the graduates of one class had been fired right after being hired as apprentices. The state of Pennsylvania ordered Mined Minds to cease operations for not having a license to run a school.

On a morning in late November, in the first class after the Lithuania conference, the students in Beckley arrived to a shocking development. Two people who had gone on the trip — Stephanie Frame and Mr. Moore, their teaching assistant — had been kicked out of the program.

In a video conference, Ms. Laucher told the class that Stephanie had been dismissed because of “extreme sexual harassment, lots of drunkenness, basically behaving in a way that we wouldn’t condone at Mined Minds.”

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