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DesignYou Creating Links To Education For Houston Students

jurias [at] CougarNet.UH.EDU (Jose Urias)

Design You! Code Camp
Design You! Code Camp
Design You! Code Camp

The DesignYou Code Camps for students are one-week academic camps for students entering grades six through eight in fall 2022.

Sponsored by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Camp Code, these camps provide hands-on experience with computer coding and programming while building an interest in its relation to the fashion and retailing industry.

Leading the camps were Barbara Stewart, Ed.D., department chair for the Human Development and Consumer Sciences (HDCS) department, and Susan Schroeder, lecturer, and program manager for the HDCS department.

After hosting another successful camp this year, we had the chance to speak with Schroeder to learn more about her and Stewart’s vision for the camp.

Q: When did you begin hosting the DesignYou Code Camp?

The first camp, DesignHER Code Camp, was created for girls back in the summer of 2019. The Texas Workforce Commission was funding opportunities to increase girls’ interest in STEM careers since, at the time, only 27% of the STEM jobs were held by women. We wanted to help improve that statistic while, at the same time, make a difference in our campus community. 

Q: Why do you believe it is important to host camps like these for young students?

It was important to us that the camp was tuition-free, thereby offering students of low-income families an opportunity they may not otherwise have access to. The camp was a huge success, as indicated by student and parent input. Girls expressed a marked improvement in their perceptions of self-confidence in STEM and coding abilities. Unfortunately, COVID then delayed this outreach for a few years. This summer of 2022, we are able to once again offer this tuition-free camp to students (boys and girls) of low-income families. The purpose of the camps is for students to explore coding and understand the connection between technology and any future career one decides to pursue.

Q: What activities do students get to participate in during these camps?

Middle-school students are interested in shopping and fashion trends.  These camps emphasize coding in the retail and fashion industry… They enjoy conversation time with fashion and retail professionals. They visit retail locations such as Buckle, Target and this year our campus bookstore to learn how technology is implemented and utilized in the business. Students are given opportunities to experience campus life, such as lunch in the cafeteria and blacklight bowling in the Student Center. If middle-school students step on campus during these years, they are more likely to envision college as an achievable part of their future. Since some of the camp attendees struggle with academics, this camp experience can be extremely impactful, motivating and even life changing.

Q: How have your professional experiences shaped the development and the vision for these camps?

I have a heart for making a difference in the lives of others. I have a strong desire to offer opportunities for all, regardless of differences. I have an active history of community service. I have prior experience teaching students of this age level with emotional, physical, socio-economic, and learning challenges. At the university, I have a heart for working with students, regardless of abilities, to help them learn what they need to know and achieve success. My professional experiences allow me to combine my teaching experiences, community network, grant resources and community service involvement to develop a camp that offers fun, interesting and relevant activities for students.

Q: What impact do you hope for these camps to have on young students?

It is my hope that students will return to their schools and communities, motivated to work hard in school subjects, get involved in school and community activities, ask questions of their teachers, be more involved in their learning… and to make a difference in their communities. I want them to know that they do have a promising future and that they can change their world.