What is YEI?
Each summer we bring over a dozen high school aged girls from the Pajaro and Salinas Valleys up to UC Santa Cruz for a week-long summer camp. At this 100% free camp, our girls are transformed into leaders.
We believe that when you ask youth to engage with the issues that affect them, and provide them with the tools to face those issues, they will work harder than they ever have in their academic lives.
At YEI, our campers are asked to knuckle down and learn about things like college access and food justice so that they may become advocates for them. Intensive workshops train our girls to get to college or fight for their access to healthy food.
If you’ve ever met a teenager, you know how important their phones are to them. We see that as an opportunity both to teach a new skill while simultaneously broadening the impact of our project.
Smartphones are tiny computers sitting in all our pockets, but we often passively accept that their utility and potential is limited to the creativity of others.
We have learned to leverage tools that allow kids to immediately learn basic coding and in short order begin designing and building a smartphone app to digitize what they’ve learned in our college access workshops.
This news report caught the attention of someone from the Hispanic Heritage Foundation. Very impressed with what the YEI team had accomplished, he got in contact with us and encouraged our kids to submit the app for the ESA LOFT Video Game Innovation Fellowship, a national contest to find young innovators building games and apps to benefit their communities. After team member Marcus submitted an application on behalf of the whole team, they received word that they had won!
YEI Reps Marcus and Morelia were honored with a trip to Washington DC where they presented the app in front of industry leaders and members of congress. Check out local coverage of the trip from the Sentinel and the Register-Pajaronian as well as the video below on NBC Latino, a national outlet.
LOFT Fellowship Again
Flash forward to 2014. The app was published, the team was back in school, and once again the YEI College Mentor App won the ESA LOFT Video Game Innovation Fellowship! Once again a member of our team, this year Erick Brigham, made his way to the nation’s capital.