Wednesday, August 8, 2012

UAB camp teaches inner city kids to find their inner geek

It is the week before classes begin and energy is already coursing through the UAB School of Education. But the vibe is not from college students, and maybe not even from students who will go to college. Instead, it's from Birmingham area middle- and high-school girls learning how to be successful in the business world.

“What these girls have been learning is fascinating. Fascinating!” says Yvonne L. Kennedy, Director of UAB’s Women’s and Girls’ Business Network, a division of the UAB Minority Business Training & Development Program under the Office for Equity and Diversity. “You can’t be a business woman and not be computer savvy.”

Kennedy is geeked out about this summer’s UAB Girls & Business Roundtable which is offering a computer component for the first time. The girls are learning digital animation, music production and programming thanks to a partnership with the Geek Squad Summer Academy and the Junior Girls Day Out Community Program. It is a fun, intense, two-day boot camp.

“There’s an old saying, ‘you sleep when you die,” laughs Robert Duve, Geek Squad field lieutenant whose teams will run 40 similar camps this year. “You gotta give 100 percent because you get what you put into it, and seeing the light bulb go off in these kids makes the effort worthwhile.”

Kennedy can tell you about effort. This is the seventh time she has hosted the Roundtable event. It never gets easier because even though each event brings a different group of girls, they all start off the same. Ask Kennedy if the girls on campus this week are underprepared and she will shake her head and say, softly and sadly, “You wouldn’t believe. You wouldn’t believe.”

She will also tell you that is exactly why she created the Roundtable. A generation of girls needs someone to teach them how to succeed

 At first – they fight her. They give her looks that say “I’m not doing that” and “I don’t need that.” Kennedy’s response: “I tell them all on day one, ‘You may not like me now, but guess what? You’ll like me later.’” And they do. She hears from them and their parents after the fact about how the event has improved their lives, and that is what Kennedy finds the most rewarding thing of all.

In addition to the computer work this week, the girls will learn dining etiquette, health, wellness, entrepreneurship, public speaking, networking techniques and how to write a business plan. If you are interested in presenting at the next Girls & Business Roundtable or would like to volunteer, you can email Kennedy at

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