What we used to know as the traditional summer camp has recently been transformed into an experience that rewards the soul and the mind. While campfires, companionship and corn dogs were top of mind for camp attendees in the past, summer camps in the 2020s have become fun, focused and results oriented. They’ve also become a socially engaging, virtual learning experience.
An excellent example of the transformation of the traditional summer camp into a more practical and knowledge-building experience is the Innovation Academy from Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania (JAWPA). Here, in an interactive and engaging virtual environment, young people ages 10 to 14 gain the applicable, valuable knowledge and experience that has become synonymous with JAWPA. Since 1985, it has touched the lives of more than one million students and more than 2.5 million since its founding, making this chapter the 15th largest JA operation in the United States.
Like JA’s programs in western Pennsylvania’s schools, the Innovation Academy has its focus on the three key pillars of financial literacy, workforce readiness and entrepreneurship. Most importantly, this virtual learning camp delivers what our future leaders seek most: an opportunity to be challenged, to succeed and to design their own personalized path for the future.
The Innovation Academy experience offers young people real-world challenges to produce real-life experiences now, for use in their careers later on. In this interactive environment, students can learn how to create a “green” business, which earns a profit. Our future leaders like to engage with others, so in this virtual camp, participants work online with others in small groups.
Young leaders learn real-world experience from mentors already succeeding in their businesses. Innovation Academy attendees receive advice and help from guest entrepreneurs to build their own companies.
Hearing and learning from mentors provides more than memories. Studies continue to show that interacting with business leaders and mentors produces direct outcomes, producing future leaders who benefit from earning higher compensation and enjoy more commitment and satisfaction in their future careers. Most importantly, exchanging ideas with real-life entrepreneurs tends to produce future leaders who are more likely to believe they will advance in their careers.
Traditional summer camps always had a culminating event and at the Innovation Academy it’s an experience attendees will remember and refer to for years to come. At the end of the interactive workshop, the attendees’ companies pitch their ideas to the “sharks” and winners emerge and are acknowledged.
From JA’s innovative experiential Biztown, a combination of hands-on business and community experiences in a mock town for young students, to the JA Titan Program, where ninth to 12th grade students create a virtual company through a web-based simulation, there are plenty of challenges available even for the most ambitious students.
JA’s Innovation Academy has brought the traditional summer camp experience into the present, to prepare enthusiastic and talented young people for the future.
By: Richard Borden, CEO/Founder, Plug-and-Play Communications