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Student Spotlight: From Stocking Shelves to Stacking Code



Before finding an apprenticeship with Road to Hire, Jakari Stratton’s experience in coding was limited to his love for video games while growing up. Back then, the idea of building one himself seemed like “nothing short of sorcery.”

As his interest in technology grew, he began exploring the field via YouTube rabbit holes and teaching himself about computer hardware and software, while simultaneously developing a base-level knowledge of how software worked. When Road to Hire offered to pay him to learn more about his growing passion, he didn’t hesitate to accept.

After dropping out of college, Jakari juggled several jobs in Savannah, Georgia — working at Publix, a rock climbing company, a catering company, and elsewhere to pay the bills. That left him little time to pursue an additional passion for illustration. Still, he didn’t want to return to college.

“I hated public school and college because I felt that they were just obligatory and oppressive in nature,” said Jakari.

Jakari’s close friends sensed he was looking for a change and convinced him to move to Charlotte, North Carolina, offering him a place to stay. While his parents encouraged him to pursue a career in technology, they pictured him returning to college and studying IT. They were initially skeptical about his move to Charlotte and his pursuit of a career pathway that wasn’t paved through college. 

With the support of his friends and family — and despite some nay-sayers — Jakari moved to Charlotte and began an apprenticeship with Road to Hire, which he completed in May 2022.

The experience left him with a newfound sense of freedom when he began working remotely, “I was in charge of my day, how I learned, and the environment in which I worked.”

Among the things he learned at Road to Hire, one stood out: autonomy.

“I learned a lot about how this world is different outside of being a shelf-stocker at Publix, where you clock in and you clock out,” Jakari said. “While I’m here, I determine how my day goes, how I do my work and the pace at which I learn. That level of autonomy and self-determination was the biggest breath of fresh air in my life.”

With this newfound autonomy, Jakari can focus more time on other ways to fill his cup, like continuing to learn new skills and exploring his art. He still illustrates often in his spare time.

Along with his ability to work independently, Jakari has received a helping hand whenever he needed it through mentors he met through the Road to Hire program.

“When I first started out, I thought of myself as a big fish in a big pond, but when you’re starting out coding, something will inevitably come up that will make you feel like an idiot. And it was invaluable to have that support system when I needed it most.”

Today, Jakari works as an application developer for the Mecklenburg County government in Charlotte. For those considering enrolling in Road to Hire, he has one question: ”Why would you not take the opportunity to get paid while you do it too?”

And for soon-to-be graduates, Jakari says he’s excited to meet them “on the other side,” especially those who will join him in Mecklenburg County.