CHARLOTTE – When Lisa Dudzik walked her daughter into the Dottie Rose Foundation’s coding camp last summer, her daughter was reluctant to go. By the end of the week, her daughter found a new passion and potential career path.
The Dottie Rose Foundation aims to get middle school-aged girls engaged and interested in careers in the tech industry through workshops and summer camps. It is part of an effort to close the gender gap in tech companies as well as increase confidence in adolescent girls.
Before finding the Dottie Rose Foundation, Dudzik’s daughter attended a Lego camp. She said while her daughter had fun in the co-ed environment, she did not gain much from the camp when it came to her confidence and life outlook.
That changed after her daughter went to coding camp with the Dottie Rose Foundation.
“Especially in middle school, you see that drop in girls’ self-esteem and they become very concerned about what other people think of them,” Dudzik said. “These programs not only introduce these girls to the material, but they literally get to sit down and learn it.”
Dudzik said her daughter’s favorite part of the camp was the communal learning and loose structure. The girls finished their coding projects together, transitioned projects together and decided what they wanted to do together. The staff served as supervisors, teachers and mentors to the campers, rather than giving them a strict schedule and structured projects.
The camps are staffed by professional mentors in their respective industries. Campers also get to visit the workplaces of their mentors and get inspired by the possibilities their futures could hold.
“It’s stuff the kids didn’t even know existed and it takes it further than just that conversation and telling them about a place,” Dudzik said. “They take them to these places and introduce them to these people and these people are interested in their ideas. It’s magical. It takes it to a whole new level.”
The Dottie Rose Foundation will offer four different camps this summer for girls ages 9 to 14, depending on the camp. Topics include coding and design, digital media, making STEM and fashion technology and design.
Dudzik said the fashion camp sold out last year, and she predicts it will sell out again. Girls at the camp will learn how to use software to make designs. Additionally, the Dottie Rose Foundation brings in professional seamstresses to show the girls how to sew and make their designs come to life. The camp culminates with a fashion show at the Harvey B. Gantt Museum, where campers show off their designs.
“I got teared up and my kid wasn’t even in it,” Dudzik said. “Girls walk through the hallways of their campuses hoping someone notices them but at the same time try to be invisible. That’s middle school in a nutshell. To see them come out and wear something that they had not only designed, but completely created in a week, was just amazing.”
The foundation’s founder, Sharon Jones, makes connections with professionals in all industries to see how they can collaborate. Dudzik, who now works as the foundation’s marketing and project specialist, said Jones has a talent for bringing people together. She said many companies in Charlotte understand the need for the foundation’s mission.
Currently, the foundation works with female employees at CenturyOne, who are able to serve as mentors to participants at camps and workshops.
“They have some amazing mentors there who are tired of being the only two or three women out of 60 to 100 and would love to share more space with people that look like themselves,” Dudzik said.
While some may wish to send their children to a traditional, outdoor summer camp, Dudzik believes the camps offered by the Dottie Rose Foundation present new, hands-on opportunities for girls that could change their lives the way it changed her daughter’s life. She said before sending her daughter to Dottie Rose, her daughter did not find coding interesting. Now, her daughter has met people who occupy jobs she did not know existed.
“This is not just an opportunity to hang out with horses for a week or hang out with your friends and play softball,” Dudzik said. “This is the kind of opportunity that might open your daughter’s eyes to a life and career she didn’t even imagine. It could be a life-changer, and that’s what I love about it.”
Want to learn more?
Visit www.dottierosefoundation.org for details about the Dottie Rose Foundation’s summer camps and workshops.