Brandon Washington dreams of providing an after-school program for the young people of his community to gather and learn in. There would be an hour dedicated to homework, an hour for learning about STEM topics, and an hour for esports-related activities.
Why a whole hour for esports? They’ll teach kids soft skills, such as working with a team and following through on your goals, he told Technical.ly.
This dream could be within reach for the technologist and teacher as he kicks off a new fundraising campaign this week. The goal is to raise $50,000 by Nov. 11 to support his South Philly collaborative workspace, 1901.
Washington was first raising money to secure the space at 1901 Washington Ave. back in December 2020. He ended up raising over $15,000 in his initial efforts.
“I’m really passionate about providing the instruction that I inherited to my community because it’s really allowed me to do the things I do in life, just being exposed to technology,” he said. “I’ve always had a passion to kind of share that wealth of knowledge with the next generation.”
Since opening in May 2021, 1901 has hosted STEM workshops related to web development, biomedicine, 3D design and printing, game development and design, and computer programming. It also hosted community events such as comedy shows and public meetings. And the space has led to partnerships with other organizations, such as the mentorship-focused Uncommon Individual Foundation, which helped Washington put on STEM workshops earlier this year.
Washington said he’s also building a relationship with a University of Pennsylvania program called Tech It Out that matches college computer science students with grade school students, giving them one-on-one exposure and mentorship in computer science.
With the money he’s trying to raise, Washington pledges to commit $20,000 to cover operating costs, $10,000 to install a surveillance security system, and the rest to purchase equipment for STEM and esports programs, such as gaming PCs and projectors.
His interest in bringing esports to these kids goes all the way back to his own memories playing video games as a kid, something he said helped keep him out of trouble. He said he sees his students always staring at their phones, so he figured, why not run with that?
“I want to play with them and kind of guide them along the process,” Washington said of the popular games that are part of a fast-growing industry. “You got a lot of big companies investing in the metaverse. So, I want to get these youths exposed to that sooner than later, so they can really take advantage of it.”
Even though Washington has a big goal ahead of him, he’s feeling good about it. He said he thinks the crowdfunding portion of this effort will result in a good chunk of his goal, but ultimately he’s hoping a big company will see the work he’s trying to do and make a big donation.
“We’re doing the good work. We’re doing the community [work],” he said. “These big companies coming into the city have the opportunity to really give back here.”
Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. -30-