Innovative-Thinkers Camp–Nurturing the local Economic Pipeline

We have heard from employers and companies that are looking to relocate their businesses that they need a pool of potential employees who are independent thinkers; people who possess creative problem solving skills and can work as a member of a team as well as independently. We have heard that the focus of growth for the Michiana economy is based on innovation. What we have not heard is who working to cultivate that culture.

Innovative-Thinkers Camp (InC) is an attempt to cultivate that culture. We started this summer with a pilot group of 19 middle schoolers (mostly rising 7th graders) and worked to help them to unlock their inner innovator. They had training sessions on various topics and exposure to local innovators who live in our community. One of the campers commented to her peers, at a local community center, that we treated them like they were grown-ups and helped them to realize that they could take initiative to turn the things that they are passionate about into careers or businesses.

Innovative-Thinkers Camp is not just a two week camp, it is a three year commitment to work with these young people and to help them to get connected to existing programs, services, and opportunities that will help them to accomplish their goals. Taking 19 middle schoolers through this experience is nice but if we are able to provide this experience for hundreds of children, we should be able to impact our local culture and economy.   I am thrilled to announce that 10 South Bend community organizations have agreed to host camps in 2013.  The University of Notre Dame will provide the template and coach them through the process so that next year approximately 200 michiana youth will have an opportunity to unleash the innovator within them. Our goal is that the Michiana region becomes known as the place with the most innovative youngsters.

Follow us on this blog and on our Facebook page as we take this journey together.

Jackie Rucker

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