Denver Community Collaborates for Unique Summer Camp for Opportunity Youth

The Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) and the Turing School of Software and Design, sponsored by Denver’s Office of Economic Development, collaborated for a one week coding summer camp for Opportunity Youth who are or have attended DSST’s schools. Out of an application process, 24 individuals (13 young women and 11 young men) aged 16–18 were selected for an intensive programming opportunity at the end of June.

Across the organizations, all share a mission to ensure that the technology field is diverse, and are working to break down barriers for more individuals to have access to this viable career pathway. Throughout the one week camp, students learned the fundamental concepts of CSS, HTML and Javascript while also incorporating non-tech career navigation topics into the curriculum such as understanding the gender gap in technology, communicating their personal story, and differentiating between extrovert and introvert working styles. All topics were centered around how they might contribute to greater diversity and inclusion in the tech field and how they could work best with others. Students worked closely with the Turing instructors to apply concepts and build applications including their own website. Every student presented their website they constructed at the end of the week.

While students’ perception of the field and also their own interest prior to the camp varied, close to 90% of students now hope to continue their learning and engage in similar programs with DSST and Turing on coding. The majority of students had no experience with coding coming into the camp but left feeling moderately confident in the technology skills they learned. 95% rated their camp time as excellent or very good, and a valuable use of their time.

“DSST is honored and grateful for this life-changing opportunity for our students provided through the generosity of the City of Denver Office of Economic Development and partners CU Denver, Turing Institute of Software and Design, Healthgrades, and Panda Express. This program not only educated our students in valuable coding and tech career topics but also opened their eyes to the prospect of becoming successful in the booming tech industry of Denver/Colorado” said Nicole Lovato, Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships, DSST Public Schools stated.

“For Turing, working with community partners to expose more students to the field is a huge priority. We find it part of our mission and duty to ensure that individuals understand their potential and we are passionate to spark the love of coding” said Courtney Haynes, Director of Partnerships and Development.

While Turing is a seven month technology training provider here in Denver, Colorado, the school has been participating in various programs and working to build pathway programs across the community. The tech field is heavily underrepresented and our vision is to have a world where the people making technology reflect the people using it.

This was a unique opportunity that allowed three organizations to come together and provide an informative and purposeful experience for Denver young adults. There were numerous planning meetings and extensive work on the side to build a curriculum that would resonate and ensure continued learning for the students. In addition, Healthgrades and Panda Express served as the employer sponsors of the camp; Healthgrades even had software developers come into the camp and talk about their professional day-to-day.

The next step is for DSST, Turing and OED to continue their work together and hopefully expand this camp to accommodate more students over a longer period of time. Denver is quickly growing as a technology hub, and ensuring that our own students are equipped with the knowledge and access to high-quality programs is essential for both individual and collective economic opportunity across our region.

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