Groups announce $500,000 a year deal to expand successful EMU program

By Denis Wolcott / EMU

YPSILANTI – GameAbove and the Mr. October Foundation today announced a collaborative effort and $500,000 in annual funding to expand a successful Eastern Michigan University program that encourages and supports more girls and boys, particularly from disadvantaged areas, to enter technology-related careers.

Digital Divas, which began in 2010 as a twice-a-year conference for middle and high school girls, will now expand to include after-school sessions, summer camps and other events to provide more opportunities to build STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills and knowledge in a space where individuals can explore and build their interests while becoming familiar with life on a college campus. The additional funding and collaboration will also support the recent addition of a “Digital Dudes” program, targeting at-risk young men in inner cities by engaging them in hands-on learning and exposure to a college campus in hopes to improve high school graduation rates and help them plan a pathway to college.

“The past decade has witnessed explosive growth in the technology industry, yet a significant gender gap remains. Women are missing out on this entrepreneurial success. GameAbove and the Mr. October Foundation are coming together to help change this disparity,” said Denis Wolcott, GameAbove spokesperson. “Digital Divas, and now Digital Dudes, are wonderful opportunities for young people to achieve their dreams.”

“I’m very excited and appreciative of our new partnership with GameAbove and Eastern Michigan University,” said Reggie Jackson, founder of the Mr. October Foundation. “Detroit has always been a target for me since I’ve played there and learned of the need they’ve had for a focus on education among the younger generation – a generation that soon will be making the decisions for our future.”

Through the initiative announced today, GameAbove will provide up to $500,000 annually to expand Digital Divas’ programming beyond the twice-a-year conferences, underwrite the program’s executive director salary and provide scholarships to attend EMU. The Mr. October Foundation will provide additional curriculum and educational assistance to targeted schools in Detroit and other Southeast Michigan communities. GameAbove, whose advisory board is filled with successful entrepreneurs dedicated to enhancing the academic experience within EMU and the surrounding communities, found a perfect partner in the Mr. October Foundation with a shared vision: To see young people succeed.

“On behalf of the faculty and supporters of Digital Divas, we are grateful for this generous funding and commitment to our program,” said Bia Hamed, Digital Divas Program Director. “This collaboration will benefit so many more female and male students from inner cities, from rural communities, and from low socioeconomic areas and historically disadvantaged school districts. We look forward to reaching more young people and inspiring them into STEM courses and careers.”

According to an American Association of University Women research report, a combination of stereotypes, gender biases, and values result in women often reporting that they don’t feel as if they belong in engineering and computing fields. Less than 20 percent of computer science degrees went to women in 2017 and the numbers are lower for minority women, according to another report. To correct this disparity, EMU’s College of Engineering & Technology launched Digital Divas to inspire and provide positive role models and experiences for girls.

Over the past few months, GameAbove has donated more than $13 million to academic, athletic and supportive programs at Eastern Michigan University. Previously announced gifts of $3.5 million to EMU include the “GameAbove, Faculty First” initiative to support faculty development and the “Students Matter Most” grant to assist the academic and program needs of current and future students.

About The GameAbove

At The GameAbove, our primary focus is to help shape, inspire and support the current and future students of Eastern Michigan University by reaching new heights in learning through transformation and inspiration in the educational experience. Together, we will strive for that next level of success with a GameAbove all others. The GameAbove family of organizations will also help improve the higher education experience by exploring and supporting the use of innovative financial models to sustain universities, creative giving within the community, enhancing the campus environment, elevating athletics and promoting pioneering academic programs.