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DevCamp @ Denver Public Library

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DevCamp @ Denver Public Library

Denver Public Library, Colo.

Education - Birth Thru Teens | 2015 | Top Innovator

Innovation Summary

Denver Public Library partners with Denver Public Schools and tech industry professionals to provide free week-long camps at libraries in at-risk neighborhoods where young people ages 12-19 work with professional mentors to learn basic web development skills.

Problem Statement

Colorado has seen large growth in technology industry jobs, but there are not enough locals with the skills needed to fill these positions. However, Colorado ranks in the bottom 20% of states with high school students who go on to earn college degrees, while ranking above the national average growth in STEM occupations. Research has shown that out-of-school exposure to real world work is key to building interest in, and long-term commitments to, STEM fields. In additions, Hispanics are the fastest growing population in Colorado, and there is a nearly 40% under-representation of Hispanics in STEM fields in the state. Two neighborhoods that will host DevCamps this year have poverty rates double that of the Denver metro area as a whole.


Innovation

DevCamp includes a week of instruction in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, tours of local tech companies, guest speakers from the tech industry, and group work which teaches some of the soft skills necessary for professional success. Placed in groups of five and paired with a mentor, participants produce a website during the week and then present it to a panel of industry professionals who evaluate content and technical expertise. Denver Public Schools helps recruit students from high-risk areas with large Hispanic populations to participate and provides transportation, while technology industry partners help recruit mentors, provide speakers, and arrange tours.


Progress

By working with Denver Public Schools to recruit teens in at-risk neighborhoods and partnering with industry to find mentors who can share real-world skills and experiences, DevCamp aims to build interest in STEM-related fields among underrepresented populations and build a passion for learning that bleeds over into at-risk children's formal education. In the end, participants earn a base of technical skills and an awareness of possible career paths, while the city as a whole is a step closer to a larger pool of Colorado natives with the necessary skills to help fill in-demand technology jobs. Last year, 72% of DevCamp participants said they could see themselves working in web development in the future, and 86% wanted to keep learning more after camp.