New program offers economic mobility for high school seniors

New tech program gives teens special skills

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Carolina Fintech Hub is behind a program that will give economic mobility to high school seniors.

It’s called Youth Technology Apprenticeship Camp (YTAC). It’s a month long camp where CMS high school seniors not going to college can acquire a skill that can be profitable.

The program is for 20 students. Those students will learn about esports, coding and other careers in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) field.

“Come in to play video games,” Carolina Fintech Hub Executive Director Tariq Bokhari said. “And potentially build your own, but then learn how to code. You meet them where they are with E-sports.”

Bokhari said this program was supposed to start in the summer but due to COVID-19 - the launch date was pushed up to April and the students will do the work remotely.

Some students may not have the necessary equipment to be able to participate. Leaders say computers, headsets and internet capability will not be a stumbling block.

“They’re going to have all that provided for them for this month of the apprenticeship camp,” Bokhari said. “Free of charge - inside their walls, hand delivered to them so they can focus on their upward mobility trajectory and learning how to code and the importance of STEM - not worrying about how the digital divide is going to once again hold them back.”

Students will get paid $10 an hour to participate. Their day will start at 9:30 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. Students will start their day at 9:30 working on projects, labs and building their own game. They will also participate in esports competition with other students.

Students will also spend four hours to receive training on how to become full stack developers and find out what it takes to enter a career in technology.

“We want to invest into those future developers,” Esports Coach C.J. Collins said. “So that we can have more games to play in 20, 30, 40 years from now that are better and easier to watch - more exciting to watch for the fans and cater to that competitive audience.”

Collins says he remembers once upon a time e-sports wasn’t a desirable field. He is grateful times have change helping to give students options.

“15 years ago the opportunity to even play e-sports or to play games,” Collins said. “It was not exactly seen as something productive to do with your time...the fact that astigmatism has changed quite a bit - it was really, really easy for me to kind of jump on and say yes - I want to support these programs..”

Bokhari hopes this program will expand to offer more students economic mobility. He believes this could be the start of something big for Charlotte and set an example for other cities.

“Not only is it going to be amazing for their lives and their careers,” Bokhari said. “But inadvertently we maybe creating the first cross Charlotte High School intramural e-sports league in what we are doing.”

The program is right now just for 20 CMS seniors. The program will cost about $100,000 - that includes the stipend, curriculum, materials and instructors. Bokhari says he is looking for other contributors to help increase student numbers.

“The hardest part of this is going to be telling a bunch of good kids who could have done amazing at this - No.” Bokhari said.

So far about 270 students have already signed up. Those students are located in several CMS high schools.

There are 33 applicants from Phillip O Berry Academy, 24 students from Vance High School, 15 from Olympic High School, 10 from Independence High School, 10 from Rocky River High School, and 10 from West Mecklenburg High School.

The deadline to apply is April 17th. There will be a test given to help identify students best for this program. Interested in applying click here.

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