Coding Continuum: Alonso Del Rio’s Journey from Student to Mentor
Madison West High class of 2016 alum Alonso Del Rio is a software developer on the MyChart team at Epic, a career that allows him to embrace his passion for technology. His venture into the world of computer science (CS) took root during fifth grade as a participant in the inaugural Scratch Club at Shorewood Elementary School. Scratch, a free programming language designed to make coding enjoyable and accessible for children, captivated Alonso. Reflecting on those early days, he fondly recalls “I just had so much fun with Scratch—I loved having the ability to make my own games and goofy animations and learning about cool tricks to use in my projects. I didn’t fully realize that these tricks were tied to the foundations of programming until years later!”
Nurturing a Passion for Computer Science
Alonso’s engagement with Scratch didn’t end with elementary school. Throughout his time at Velma Hamilton Middle School, his interest in coding flourished, and by the time he reached Madison West High School, he was accepted into the Information Technology Academy (ITA), a pre-college program designed to increase the diversity of students at UW-Madison. Through this program, Alonso not only honed his skills in Scratch but also began teaching it to fellow high-schoolers. Alonso acknowledges the pivotal role of his Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) education in preparing him for UW-Madison. He credits programs like AVID (with Mrs. Murphy), specific classes like Advanced Writing (with Mr. Howe), and opportunities in math and computer science AP courses for shaping his academic trajectory. “I drew upon the knowledge and resources from these parts of my MMSD education a countless number of times,” he comments.
Returning to Where It All Began
His affinity for computer science, and Scratch in particular, led him full circle when, during his sophomore year at UW-Madison, he discovered that the CS 402 course—Introducing Computer Science to K-12 Students—had evolved from the very first Scratch Club he attended. CS 402 professor, Andrea C. Arpaci-Dusseau, was responsible for starting that original club in 2009 when her two daughters (now in college and graduate school) were at Shorewood Elementary. This revelation inspired Alonso to take the course, and seeing his younger self in the photographs of the original club members was a surreal moment. “It was really weird,” he says. “I’m in that photo!” Fueled by nostalgia and a sense of purpose, he dove headfirst into CS 402 and found himself co-leading (with 2 other UW students) a weekly Scratch club back at Shorewood Elementary School – reliving the same experience that ignited his passion for computer science. “That’s how CS was introduced to me, and now I’m doing it in the same place, in the same way,” Alonso expressed, acknowledging the significance of his journey. Reflecting on his mischievous nature as a young participant (“I was kind of a troublemaker—a goofier kid”), Alonso comments: “I really enjoyed putting together fun lessons each week with my team based on our goals and the previous week’s outcomes, nurturing each student’s motivation to learn Scratch, and seeing our students’ creativity shine during their final project presentations in front of their proud families and friends.” And underscoring the importance of an engaging introduction to the field, he remarked: “Scratch makes computer science really fun. When you’re teaching CS for the first time to anyone, you must make it accessible, and Scratch allows you to do that.”
From Graduation to Beyond
Alonso graduated from UW-Madison in 2020 with a major in Computer Sciences and certificates in Digital Studies and Game Design. Today, when he’s not immersed in coding, he enjoys strumming his guitar and exploring the world of video games, particularly indulging in fighting games. Alonso Del Rio’s journey—from curious fifth grader exploring Scratch, to college mentor working with elementary school students, to professional in the field of computer science—is a testament to the transformative power of early exposure and passionate mentorship.
Madison’s public schools are proud to count Alonso Del Rio among their alumni!