Awesome Foundation: Moorhead Digital Design Boot Camp

Written by: Brandi Malarkey

When college student Kory Powell-Oliver submitted a proposal to teach a class for Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM)’s College for Kids & Teens summer camp program in 2021, he had no idea how much fun it would be, or how positively the kids in his class would respond. A student of Graphic Communications at MSUM, Kory used his own classes in web and graphic design as a framework to build the summer course and was amazed at the results.

“All the kids understood; they really got a good grasp of the materials and a sound understanding of the programs. After the course ended one kid told me he ‘felt his dad got his money’s worth.’ Kids don’t usually say things like that, so it had to have come from a real place,” laughs Kory. “But the biggest thing was seeing how I was able to alleviate the stress and anxiety a lot of teens have about entering into tech careers. I was really inspired by that.”

With such positive feedback on the course and a great deal of encouragement about his teaching style from other instructors, Kory realized that there was a need for additional resources like his class in the community.

“Growing up, I had no idea how to get into technology, I just knew it was something I wanted to do and that employment in those fields can be super competitive. A lot of kids are like me, and I want to be able to reach out to them, help them get more familiar with modern technology, the design, the resources and the knowledge necessary.”

To fill that need, Kory has taken the class he created for the College for Kids & Teens summer camp and is developing a Digital Design Boot Camp that can be hosted at various times to offer the information to the community in what he hopes will be a more accessible way.

The bootcamps will feature the use of UX Design and software called Figma to help high school students get familiar with the software, but the goal of the bootcamps is broader than simply learning design.

“I want to share the knowledge and perspective I have learned trying to get into the field,” Kory states. “I want to share the pros and cons of the process, a real perspective of trying to get into the field. I also want to give them an opportunity to build toward a portfolio and create a couple pieces through the camp that they can share with employers. I want to provide a little bit of mentorship.”

Kory hopes to launch the first of his bootcamps over MSUM’s spring break. Currently a senior at MSUM, he feels the opportunity to pilot the Digital Design Boot Camp while he is still a student can’t be passed up.

“I’m the instructor, but I have staff in the college department backing me up. I will need to rent a room and electronics to run the camp and, as a student, I get a cheaper rate to campus resources. Once I graduate, I won’t have that access, so this is the time to try things out, and figure out what electronics I will need to run future camps. I don’t want this to be a one-time thing. I want to be able to do this in many different ways,” Kory says.

Although additional funding will be needed to purchase electronics and subscriptions for future boot camps, Kory will be able to pay the rental and advertising fees of the newly remodeled course this spring with the assistance of a $1000 gift from the Cass Clay chapter of the Awesome Foundation, who named him one of their two December 2021 grantees.

As the Digital Design Boot Camp develops, Kory hopes to incorporate more people into the project, both by inviting guest speakers from the field, and to offer the camp to others.

“I want to be able to inspire more kids with this camp,” Kory says simply. “And hopefully go on to create a STEM camp that is welcoming for all groups of people. I believe this will help build connections and resources and expand the Fargo-Moorhead STEM community.”

The Cass Clay chapter of the Awesome Foundation awards a $1,000 gift each month for awesome ideas of all sorts. Grant recipients do not need to be associated with a non-profit. Applications can be made at en/chapters/cassclay

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