Science, technology, engineering, and mathematical fields — also known as STEM — have been dealing with a lack of representation among women and minorities. In fact, women make up only 20% of the tech world. But a summer camp for girls that focuses on closing the STEM gap made its way back to Indianapolis for the second time.
The Brave Initiatives program was a five-day camp that was held at KSM Consulting, a management, technology, cybersecurity and data consulting firm on Monument Circle.
The goal of the camp is to influence young girls to learn skills such as coding. The girls work in teams to code a website about a social issue they have noticed in their communities.
On the first day of camp, campers learn basic coding language, and share their life stories with each other and then identify social issues they see in their communities that they want to solve. On the second day, the focus is on interviewing experts in the community who work on that issue and people who have been affected by it. They also collect data on the topic and identify important takeaways they discovered. The rest of the week is used to build their websites using the data and interviews they’ve collected. Taylor Sparks, a junior at Speedway High School, said her team’s website was about body shaming. She thinks it’s important for women and minorities to be educated about technology.
“I think it’s super important to be educated, because the world we are moving into is very technology based,” Sparks said. “Especially for minorities because we all come from different backgrounds and sometimes were raised differently and in different environments.”
The idea for Brave Initiatives came when founder, Jen Kamins, who worked as a recruiter on the talent acquisitions team at Motorola, Chicago, for five years, noticed the software engineering field lacked women and minorities. Kamins teamed up with Emily Harburg, a doctorate student in the Technology and Social Behavior program at Northwestern University, and Anne Bethune, a doctorate student at Northwestern’s School of Education Policy.
So, she teamed up with Emily Harburg, a doctorate student in the Technology and Social Behavior program at Northwestern University and Anne Bethune, a doctorate student at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy, to create the camp.
Operating in Chicago for five summers, Jess Carter, project director at KSM and friend of Kamins, brought the program to Indianapolis in 2018. The program proved successful so Kamins’ decided to bring it back annually.
The Brave Initiatives program has expanded and now includes internship and fellowship opportunities for college students, and Brave partnered with different youth organizations and schools to deliver the programs.
“This year, our big focus has been on this initiative of not just running our own camps that are staff led, but partnering with organizations all over the country and the world,” said Kamins.
In addition to the camp for high school students, Brave also offers a fellowship program for graduating college students who want to get into the business of nonprofitorganizations and learn core job skills in either finance, marketing, fundraising or communications.
“The fellowship is a yearlong, and some people will do it as a gap year,” Kamins said. “Our fellowship program is a really good opportunity to get your feet wet in the nonprofit space. We hire various types of fellows, and they get to really take ownership of partners and fellows hire in the interns and have people report to them, and oversee the interns and logistics all the interns need to do for the summer.”
Taliah Borom, a senior at Goshen College studying Spanishwith a marketing minor, said she never knew anything about coding and didn’t consider it until Brave.
“I did Brave camp last year, and I learned so much. When I met Jen I loved her energy and I felt comfortable coding something that was about a social issue,” Borom said.
Borom says that her Spanish speaking ability has been a beneficial tool to use at camps.
“I’ve incorporated Spanish by translating Brave flyers and curriculum schedules that we give to parents. I’ve been able to actually give our parent presentation in Spanish and interact with parents,” Borom said.
Anyone interested in volunteering at the next Brave camp, or applying for an internship or fellowship opportunity can visit at braveinitiatives.com to learn more.