Mesa Regional Foundation for Accessibility, Diversity, & Inclusion

Camp Level Up

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Professional pathway and social development for neurodivergent youth through game design

Visit Mesa – ASU Herberger Institute – Mesa Arts Center – Endless Studios
Copa Health – Mesa Regional Foundation for Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion

Increasingly accessible and easy-to-use tools have made it possible to build completely virtual worlds filled with intricate story tapestries – we see this in the booming video game industry, in contemporary cinema, and in emerging media for virtual realities. Neurodivergent youth on the autism spectrum and beyond have incredible and unique perspectives to bring to this era of fantastic worldbuilding, but in many cases they lack the opportunities and communities to support their development of these skills. The prevalence rate of autism has recently increased to 1 in 44 people, and young adults with ASD have the lowest early career employment rates among all disabilities. Only about 50% of young adults with ASD have ever worked for pay by the time they reach the end of their 20s, and various studies estimate that the unemployment rate for adults on the spectrum hovers between 50% and 75%. Two of the primary factors in this issue are lack of professional education in sectors that accommodate neurodivergent identities and a lack of explicit (conscious) confidence in their own abilities.

The gaming industry provides a uniquely aligned opportunity for neurodivergent youth to find professional success alongside an opportunity for personal expression.

Camp Level Up aims to address these challenges for the neurodivergent youth of Mesa and neighboring communities by providing an immersive summer camp that will develop professional-level skills in game design, while also embedding them in a community of support and neurodivergent peers which will help build the confidence needed to express themselves in this new medium. Youth in grades 6 through 12 can join us in the brand new ASU Media and Immersive eXperience (MIX) Center at Mesa City Center in late June and July 2022 for three weeks of sessions led by social impact and educational gaming studio Endless Studios and faculty from the MIX Center with onsite therapeutic support from Copa Health.

The teens who join Level Up will emerge able to create their own games and media experiences and with a community of like-minded peers.

Each day’s session will be four hours of instruction and mentored collaborative work, mixed in with guest talks from industry-leading professionals and fun enrichment experiences. Parents and caregivers are more than welcome to attend with their student. After-care activities, including game play and art-making experiences, are available for an additional three hours for interested families. Our generous sponsors and partners allow us to provide this opportunity well below cost, with the tuition for each student at $300 for the full three weeks. Scholarships to reduce those costs further are available for families in need. At the beginning of the three weeks, families should plan to attend a fun orientation session for all participants, and, at the end of the camp, everyone is invited to view the Level Up Showcase celebrating the work of all of our participants!

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