Virtual technology provides an opportunity for camps to reach more youth

Summer camp looks a lot different than it used to. Swimming, kayaking, music lessons, STEM activities, and crafts have been replaced with Zoom calls with friends and counselors. But that doesn’t mean the learning or the fun has to stop. Youth programs and camps around the country are finding creative new ways of connecting with youth, and even expanding their reach globally, through the help of virtual technology.

In addition to the now-familiar video chat, camps are finding alternative ways to connect with youth. Many have adjusted their activities to include projects that campers can work on with everyday household items or through kits mailed to participating families. Plus, new digital tools like software from Ascend can turn camp curriculums into digital games where youth earn points for completing activities.

Charlotte-based Dottie Rose Foundation has already gone virtual with its computer science camps for middle school students. Campers have taken to earning points for completing their camp activities through the youth-facing Ascend platform. But program staff benefit from the software as well. “All around, the platform will give us a new perspective on our business and what we’re doing,” said CEO and Founder Dr. Sharon Jones. “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.” That growth has gone global for Dottie Rose. Since the transition to virtual camps, the organization has attracted campers from as far away as Ireland. 

Likewise, Charlotte-based Sports Biz Camps is making the transition to virtual programming. “We are excited to announce the launch of the first-of-its-kind Sports Biz Virtual Career Exploration Camp,” said Lana Truese, Director of Communications and Operations at Sports Biz Camps. “Due to the national response to COVID-19 and the resulting health concerns surrounding large in-person gatherings, we chose to move our 2020 camps to an exclusively virtual setting.” Sports Biz Camps will bring high school students from under-resourced communities across the country face-to-face with sports industry professionals, professional athletes, and educators for a series of live and pre-recorded experiences, focusing on career pathways into sports. Sports Biz Camps will also be using the Ascend platform to gamify their camp curriculum for teens.

While certain camp activities will be impossible to replicate virtually, the challenge of the COVID- 19 stay-at-home order has resulted in an opportunity for innovative and enterprising camps. “We had already been considering the transition to virtual camps, and this experience forced us to accelerate that process,” said Truese. Dr. Jones of Dottie Rose agrees. “We always knew we could offer content online, it’s just been a matter of figuring out the best way.” 


About Ascend

Ascend is a student empowerment platform that enables schools and youth organizations to track student goals. Through Ascend’s gamified goal-setting app, students create goals and build social capital, and administrators easily report on outcomes. Ascend is proud to be a minority and woman-owned business and supports schools and mentoring organizations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and beyond. Visit to learn more.