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Aug. 8, 2017 10:53 am

TechGirlz expanded its work to Camden

Here's how the move exemplifies the tech education nonprofit's mission to empower girls to "learn within their communities."

TechGirlz coding workshop at Waterfront Lab on July 22.

(Photo via twitter.com:WaterfrontLab)

Editor's note: The description of the first workshop has been clarified. (8/8, 1:08 p.m.)
You could say that TechGirlz’s first outreach into Camden, via two coding workshops on July 22 at coworking space Waterfront Lab, was a success.

That’s because, for one, there was originally meant to be only one workshop. Danica Pascavage, outreach coordinator of the the nonprofit focused on exposing middle school girls to the many possibilities of technology, said demand was so high that host Waterfront Ventures helped organize the same workshop a second time for other girls and parents who wanted to take part.

That, and the fact that getting the word out about the workshop was pretty much all handled by groups already present in Camden, including Waterfront Ventures and Hopeworks ‘N Camden, showed TechGirls founder and CEO Tracey Welson-Rossman how her org can best expand into other communities.

Granted, TechGirlz has been focused on its “push strategy” into other states and even around the world for the past two years. Chicago-based IT services company CompTIA granted TechGirlz $125,000 earlier this year to help with getting the nonprofit’s tech curriculum and lesson plans to instructors in the state.

But the recent Camden expansion, for which Pascavage is already working on hosting a third workshop soon, made Welson-Rossman particularly excited, especially with how fast the workshops filled up and how enthusiastic the volunteers, groups and children all were. It spoke to how, at the end of the day, it’s the local community that’s pushing the agenda forward.

“This was a community-driven effort. We’re here to provide the materials and the roadmap for an event,” Welson-Rossman said. “There’s this power that the community is able to provide and hopefully, what we’re able to give is the structure and the opportunity to bring dreams into a reality.”

Pascavage added that it wasn’t just kids from Camden who took part in the workshops but outside of Camden as well, some of whom said they wanted to get into computer programming after their time participating.

It’s indicative of a natural sort of growth, via word-of-mouth among parents and just having more events available, for TechGirlz in helping girls “learn within their communities.”

Parents and the local community are key in all of this, as Welson-Rossman said they are the ones who help cultivate these girls’ interest in tech as they grow up and provide the backbone for these workshops to even happen, like how Hopeworks ‘N Camden is providing laptops for the events (something Pascavage said they need more help in getting for upcoming workshops).

“You start having this community of sharing information and success stories,” Welson-Rossman said. “Yes, it’s going to take a lot more work than one opportunity like this but this is what TechGirlz is about. What we want to do is allow these girls to understand what’s available to them [and] that there’s ways for them to use technology in their future careers.”

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