On the last day of July, Schools Fund staff had the opportunity to witness something very special. Fourteen Berkeley high school students, their families, and their mentors gathered in the multipurpose room of the Berkeley Adult School for a “Demo Day” (four days before the “Demo Day” held at the White House). Group by group, students with no previous coding experience presented websites they built from scratch in the past five weeks as part of Camp Sudo.
Students in Cal’s software development group, Blueprint, conceived of the idea for Camp Sudo several months ago. Blueprint may sound familiar; they are the brilliant students who also developed our Friends & Family site. Camp Sudo’s mission is bold: host a five-week summer camp for local high school students to teach them coding free of charge. “Our mission is to use programming as a medium for empowering youth. We envision a world where every student, regardless of circumstance, is empowered and confident to create their own future. Our aim is not only teach students how to code, but also how to dream big, learn on their own, and pave their own future.”
Camp Sudo organizers gathered funds from local businesses, including Munchery, who provided lunch four days a week for campers. The Schools Fund also gave Camp Sudo a $10,000 Strategic Impact grant to help cover costs. This money helped pay for campers’ laptops, tours of tech company campuses, and hack-a-thon nights in addition to teaching time and materials.
The results of Camp Sudo were extraordinary. Campers split up into five small groups to create a website. Sites were quite different from group to group; one featured song lyrics, another was a one-stop-shop for comedy films. One group created a fictional apparel company, and another site was created to sell graphic design pieces. Group Desuba (“abused” backwards) helped potential pet owners adopt dogs who had been abused.
Each student also built an individual website. These were personal, beautiful glimpses into students’ lives. Their sites featured family photos, illustrations, and favorite films. One student used his site to talk about the depression he had recently suffered and set up a space for others to seek help for their depression.
Campers were also given the opportunity to chat about their experiences and challenges at Camp Sudo, both technical and personal. While some groups suffered from communication issues or tricky coding problems, every camper discussed how much they loved camp. “I came here only knowing two of you, and now I know all of you really well. And I didn’t hate any of you!” one student gushed. All seemed motivated to keep learning and improving their sites, and several felt new career opportunities had opened for them.
Camp Sudo’s first year of camp may be over, but its impact will continue. Each camper has been matched up with a volunteer, college-aged mentor to give guidance and answer questions throughout the coming year. Organizers and campers, too, are already making plans for next year’s camp.