In 2009, I was invited to join something new taking place in Des Moines, Iowa. Little did I know I would be part of something so transformative.
It was an early expansion of a Best Buy community program called Geek Squad Summer Academy, which taught technology skills to underserved youth across the country in the form of two-day camps. As a Geek Squad Agent, I led classes on computer hardware and programming basics, and our “campers” were Girl Scouts. Their passion for learning and discovery was tangible and exhilarating, and after the event ended, I could only think “I wish we had more.”
Since then, Geek Squad Academy has exceeded my vision by growing into a year-round opportunity that sparks students’ interests in technology with the goal of influencing their future education and career decisions.
To celebrate Geek Squad Academy’s 10th year, we recently held a special computer-building class at our Minneapolis camp. Instead of maneuvering around gigantic computer cases like those from camp a decade ago, this year students used small Raspberry Pi boards and screen kits to build a laptop they could take home and continue to learn about programming and more. With built-in Wi-Fi, these small devices can help bridge the digital divide for students who come from low-income families and don’t have access to devices or the Internet.
Over its history, Geek Squad Academy has brought hands-on interactive experiences to tens of thousands of students in more than 100 cities nationwide. This year we visited underserved neighborhoods from Orlando to Seattle, worked with students of the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, and supported military families on base at Camp Pendleton and Naval Air Station Oceana.
And this outreach matters, because today’s students will face an increasingly demanding job market where tech knowledge is a basic requirement.
In the end, technology has immense power to enable young people to dream big and accomplish great things. By offering programs like Geek Squad Academy, we are helping transform under-served teens from consumers to creators and helping spark a new generation of engineers, entrepreneurs, teachers, designers and dreamers.
I can’t wait to see what the next year and next decade will bring.