Dottie Rose Foundation expands programming through new technology

 

Charlotte, NC-based Dottie Rose Foundation teaches middle school girls STEM skills through application-based camps. Campers experience technology and computer science concepts through the lens of fashion, interior design, photography, and other fields, as well as through exposure to area professionals. But the way that campers and program staff connect is rapidly changing, as is the way program staff track impact and outcomes.

A typical camp morning is spent learning an academic concept— loops, arrays, conditional statements, and more. There are stations for learning and opportunities for “brain breaks.” Days are peppered with guest speakers from the community who share how they use the concepts the girls are learning in their daily work. Afternoons include a project to apply the concepts learned that morning, often through a creative project. “Art is one of the driving forces with middle schoolers,” says Dottie Rose Foundation Founder and CEO Dr. Sharon Jones, referring to both an area of interest and a key tool for learning. “Fashion week last year was very ‘middle school.’ We were going to practice binary code by creating friendship bracelets. Cue the pre-teen eye-rolling. But an hour later I couldn’t get them to stop because they finally understood binary code. That was a really cool moment.”

Those moments come often for Dottie Rose Foundation campers, and they are considered a primary measure of success by Jones, alongside returning campers and positive feedback from parents. But they can be incredibly difficult to capture and measure. “I wanted a way that would verify quantitative and qualitative remarks from students to demonstrate program outcomes. I can show a lot of numbers, but the true success and evaluation will come from what the girls’ reflections are and how we see those move as they learn,” said Jones. For this reason, Jones and her team have been seeking digital tools to help them track student progress throughout camp, and beyond.

Digital tools have also become a necessity due to the current pandemic. While Jones anticipates having some in-person interaction later in the summer, a large portion of her camps will be done online. “We always knew we could offer content online, it’s just been a matter of figuring out the best way. We wanted to make sure we did so without sacrificing quality over quantity. But I want to serve more girls, and now we can do so by building our first online-only classes.”

While tools like Zoom will help connect staff and campers in real-time, activities will be sent to campers through Ascend, creator of gamified goal-setting software. The platform will enable the Dottie Rose Foundation staff to create courses in a new way and to easily track if campers have completed activities. The platform also enables camp staff and campers to stay engaged beyond the week-long programs by setting personal goals through the platform. Dottie Rose staff will be able to mentor their campers on those goals. The goals will also provide staff with information and ideas for new programs.

“I’m a programmer, but in this particular area, we cannot just rely on numerics. That’s part of the reason we haven’t tracked this information beforehand. And how we do that can’t just resonate with us, it has to resonate with our campers,” said Jones.

“All around, the platform will give us a new perspective on our business and what we’re doing. The Dottie Rose Foundation has done really well these past few years, but we’re moving into the third year and we need to focus on what’s working and what will continue to grow. We’re finding a space for young women and we have to move with them. The girls who are in elementary school now will come in with a different experience than my current campers. And as they do, we’ll have the data to know what’s working.” 

 

About Ascend

Ascend is a student empowerment platform that enables schools and mentoring organizations to cultivate, track, and measure student goals and achievement. Ascend is proud to be a minority and woman-owned business and supports organizations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Texas, and beyond.