MINNEAPOLIS -- A room full of middle school students is buzzing with activity. Students are gathered around laptops working on their websites.
"Some of them are creating content, so they're designing their own clothes. A lot of kids want to be designers when they grow up," said Brad von Bank, co-founder of Reve Academy.
Von Bank and Kristin Pardue created the non-profit to help students in north Minneapolis learn digital marketing skills. It's a natural extension of the duo's pro-profit business, Reve, which helps companies develop an online presence and marketing plan.
"On a professional side, we understood there was a need for more digital talent," explained von Bank. He and Pardue decided the best way to find that talent was to develop it themselves.
"That would help the Twin Cities because we'd have more talent, local-grown talent, and it would also help the kids who don't always necessarily see this as a pathway," said von Bank.
"My website is based off my book I've been writing for a year," said 8th grader Asante Samuels, who wants to give her audience an interactive way to experience her fantasy novel. In a two-week summer workshop, students are encouraged to dream, build a website around that vision and then present it to professionals in the same manner they might pitch a marketing plan in the working world.
Along the way, students learn about website development, search engine optimization, and digital marketing. Reve has partnerships with several schools in north Minneapolis to use that curriculum to reach more students.
"So they're doing the same curriculum over a longer period of time as an after-school enrichment," said co-founder Pardue, who says this fall, Reve Academy willhelp some of its more advanced student launch a website development business that will work with community partners who need but can't afford traditional professional services.
Reve Academy is workingto bring its program into more schools, training teacherswho will present the curriculum that can open doors forstudents interested in digital careers.
Jaime Scherle, who trains those teachers for Reve Academy, sees it as a natural fit."Schools have computers but they use them for things like powerpoints and writing papers and this takes it to a whole new level."