Across the country right about now, many kids are heading off to summer camp where they'll do things like earn merit badgets and complete the usual crafts projects. But other high schoolers are doing something decidedly different with their time off: They're learning tech skills and starting new ventures to improve their own communities.
One such camp, TechGirlz, begins Monday in Philadelphia. The camp, which is a collaboration with DreamIt Ventures and StartUp Corps, will give girls in 6th-8th grades a week of hands-on technology experience as well as a chance to develop business ideas under the mentorship of local entrepreneurs and developers. The goal is to get girls more interested in technology and start-ups early on to change the gender statistics in the IT industry.
StartUp Corps offers its own program to develop young entrepreneurs in Philadelphia. It partners with high schools and youth programs to give ongoing mentorship for high school students. A couple times a week, 150 students report to start-up class to receive lessons and advice from mentors, all successful entrepreneurs themselves. Through the course of the program, many launch for-profit and not-for-profit enterprises with the goal of positively impacting their communities.
On the other side of the country in Los Angeles, Urban Teens Exploring Technology (UrbanTxT) encourages high-school boys to use technology to improve their communities and their own economic conditions. Most of the UrbanTxT participants are from inner-city areas like South L.A. and Watts. UrbanTxT founder and Watts native Oscar Menjivar started the program, which teaches the students research and project management skills and gives them experience using Web 2.0 tools.
“We found that lots of students that we talked to did not [know] what a website was, had never seen how to make a website, but they were brave enough to try,” Menjivar said in a 2008 interview when UrbanTxT opened its doors.