Blaze Hopkins has been spending his summer swimming, playing wiffle ball and vacationing at the Jersey shore.
The 13-year-old, though, was eager to spend a couple of days last week at New Foundations Charter School, where he’ll be an eighth-grader this year.
New Foundations, at Rhawn Street and Torresdale Avenue in Holmesburg, was selected as a site for Best Buy’s Geek Squad Summer Academy.
The camp was intended to give young people ages 12 to 17 access to technology and gadgets to inspire their creativity and innovation.
“Everything is becoming computerized now,” Blaze said. “I thought it would be really neat to be a part of.”
The Geek Squad started in 2007 as a girls camp at Mother McAuley High School in Chicago.
The camp proved to be a success. This summer, there are 40 camps across the United States and in Puerto Rico, including five at military bases for the children of service members.
Best Buy employees Robert Duve, of Arizona, and Brian Hodge, of Georgia, served as “field lieutenants” at New Foundations on July 11 and 12. There are five teams of field lieutenants across the United States.
In all, a team of 18 Best Buy employees, along with seven employees of the city Department of Parks and Recreation and New Foundations staff, assisted the camp participants.
The campers consisted of New Foundation students and youngsters recommended by other schools, the parks and recreation department, non-profit groups and the Philadelphia Housing Authority.
“Bringing in a program like this gives the outside community a chance to gain and experience the resources New Foundations has,” said vice principal Shira Woolf-Cohen, who applied online for the camp.
The academy offered four classes: digital music, digital photography, PC build and programming video games. The youths got to use laptop computers and also play PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Guitar Hero and Madden NFL. The cost was $40, which included lunch, a T-shirt and a backpack.
Giovanna Clemens, a 14-year-old who’ll be a ninth-grader at New Foundations, enjoyed learning how to fix and improve a video game.
“I liked the programming class. I never made an actual video game before. I got to experience something different,” said Giovanna, who has been spending her time off going to the shore and to New York to visit family members.
Trace Ball and Michael Aviles teamed to win a computer speed-building contest.
The 13-year-old eighth-graders-to-be — Trace at Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School in West Philadelphia, Michael at Gilbert Spruance Elementary School in Castor Gardens — put a computer back together and successfully turned it on.
Trace, who’s spent the summer doing school projects and attending acting and sports camps, is glad he accepted his computer science teacher’s recommendation that he attend the technology camp.
“It’s fun. I like every class equally,” he said.
Michael, who’s been playing video games, spending time with his family and playing outdoors this summer, was excited for the opportunity to attend the camp.
“It’s awesome. Ever since I was little, I’ve loved technology,” he said.
Duve, the Best Buy field lieutenant, was in Sacramento, Calif., before coming to Philadelphia and is spending this week in Omaha, Neb. The camp at New Foundations was the only one in Pennsylvania this summer. There was a Girl Scouts-based camp at Valley Forge two years ago and a camp at a boys and girls club in Camden, N.J., three years ago.
A side benefit to the camp is that the young people get to work with one another.
“They come away with new friends,” Duve said.
Duve said the camp offers something for school-age children age 12 and older who might otherwise spend summer days texting and playing video games.
“The whole goal is that we want to expose them to things that will spark their interest,” he said. “The kids are into the technology. It’s fun, and they’re learning at the same time.” ••EndFragment