haitian american caucus camp

By Sam Bojarski

Last September, high school senior Christin Bertin was one of seven high school students who developed their own ideas for a technology app to pitch investors, during a virtual entrepreneurship camp.

“I wanted to explore more, learn more and network, [which] I did,” said Bertin, 19, of Brooklyn. “As an up-and-coming entrepreneur, I benefited a lot from this camp, [learning the] techniques of brainstorming and project developing.” 

Students like Christin Bertin (second from left) developed their own web-based apps at an entrepreneurship camp in September. Contributed photo.

Now, the organizers are encouraging Haitian-American youth in the New York City area to register for future camps. The next one is a cybersecurity camp that begins Dec. 4. 

The Shooting Stars Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to facilitating access to educational opportunities, partnered with The Haitian American Caucus to organize the technology camps. They plan to teach middle and high school students skills for careers in the tech sector. 

These camps are among a batch of low-fee or no-fee virtual technology training programs for middle and high school students, amid a pandemic that has put a halt to many in-person after-school activities.

In New York City, other groups offering to help youngsters build technology skills online include New York Public Library’s TechConnect, Girls Who Code and Coding Space. Some training is instructor-led, others are self-paced, and they cover a variety of skill levels and topics. 

Shooting Stars plans to offer data science, cybersecurity and entrepreneurship camps through the fall of 2021. Complete dates for the December camp and registration information are available on its subsidiary’s website

The partnership started when Elisa Muresan, a Shooting Stars Foundation board member, asked Nadia Aristide, a managing finance director for HAC, to serve as a mentor for the September entrepreneurship camp. Learning business and technology skills at an early age can give students a valuable edge, Aristide said. 

“The fact that this partnership is bringing this into Brooklyn and giving these kids access makes a whole world of a difference in their future, and in their mindset,” said Aristide. 

Youth tech training opportunities 

Other tech training opportunities are available through organizations like Coding Space, which offers online coding programs for middle school students of all skill levels. The website Code.org allows users to search by location and contains listings of computer programming courses in New York City, for elementary, middle and high school students. 

New York Public Library’s TechConnect provides free courses on computer programming and technology skills for people of all ages. 

Girls Who Code offers clubs for elementary, middle and high school students, at various locations throughout the city. 

New York City also provides tech bootcamps for various age groups through its Tech Talent Pipeline program. The organization offers a guide, “Choosing a Tech Bootcamp: Things to Look For,” to help people find training at various levels and costs. 

In the upcoming Shooting Stars and HAC camp, up to 30 students will learn the Linux and Unix computer operating systems commonly used in cybersecurity. Students can also compete to solve a cybersecurity attack. 

Winners will receive gift cards worth up to $100 and other prizes, covered by the $25 registration fee. Waivers are available for families who are unable to pay the full amount, Muresan said. 

The educational camps offered by the Shooting Stars-HAC partnership provide one-on-one mentorship from professionals at Netscout, a cybersecurity technology company. They allow participating Haitian-American youth to learn skills, like business pitching and computer programming, that are seldom taught in schools, said Aristide. 

Students like Bertin, the September entrepreneurship participant, can use these skills to lay the groundwork for a successful career. 

“It opened my eyes [in] many ways and left me a lot of knowledge that will help me to trace my path,” Bertin said.

Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America corps member. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Haiti Liberte. Sam can be reached at sam@haitiantimes.com or on Twitter @sambojarski.

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