Actions speak louder than words.

A core belief of Dwolla is that We believe the best teams are built by the inclusion of diverse ideas, experiences and people. We believe in linking our words, with actions. In May, Dwolla dedicated nearly three days for the team to focus on a diversity and inclusion-themed hackathon.

In June, 12 Dwolla team members spent half their day at Pride Camp, hosted by Iowa Safe Schools, a Central Iowa nonprofit organization

Becky Smith, the Gay Straight Alliance Network Coordinator for Iowa Safe Schools, said other than Pride Month—which is June—there isn’t a lot happening that embraces and encourages students to do more in the LGBTQ community.

After a brainstorming session with the leadership of Iowa Safe Schools last June, Smith said they decided to step out of their comfort zone and host a summer camp.

“We kind of just went for it,” Smith said. “There is a need. LGBTQ summer camps are around the country but most are coast based. There is this knowledge in the Midwest where there just isn’t a whole bunch of activities for students to participate in. We saw that as a need and just hit the ground running.”

How Dwolla got involved

The three day Pride Camp was June 12-14 and brought over 30 high school students to Grand View University. Smith said the activities took place all around the campus, students who stayed overnight slept in the dorms and meals were fed in Grand View’s new dining hall.

Smith said Iowa Safe Schools wanted to create a curriculum that hit on three things during the camp:

  • Leadership
  • Advocacy
  • STEM

“All of our events are not just sit and get events, we wanted to make sure everyone is engaged,” Smith explained.

Smith said LGBTQ students tell her they feel as if they need to make a decision between being “an out and proud queer” or “quiet yet having a successful career.”

“We want to make sure students don’t need to feel like they have to choose,” Smith said. “You can do whatever it is you want to do and you can do it here in Des Moines if you choose to stay in Des Moines.”

To highlight this, Smith said she reached out to Dwolla.

Dwolla’s Lead Software Engineer Nick Leeper and Jenna Hogan, Dwolla’s Director of Human Resources, responded.

“The team decided the main message we wanted to deliver was that you don’t have to just be a programmer/computer person to be in technology,” Leeper explained. “We wanted to showcase all the different career paths that are available in technology companies, and show these kids that technology and STEM is an option for them.”

Smith said she expected the Dwolla team to do an hour panel discussion.

“We thought maybe they come and do an hour long thing…they did almost a half day,” Smith said laughing.

What did Dwolla do?

Leeper says the panel discussion was an opportunity for the 12 Dwolla employees to talk about how they got into technology and what they looked for in a company during their career.

“We really wanted to drive home the message that being in technology didn’t mean you had to just be a programmer,” Leeper said. “A lot of people carry that belief and don’t realize how many extremely valuable jobs there are at technology companies that don’t involve programming.”

Smith said a student asked the best way to ask a future employer where they stand on LGBTQ issues.
“That’s what this is about,” Smith says. “Encouraging students to get answers to something, from someone in the field. It’s important we are always supporting the voice of that student.”

Leeper said Pride Camp provided Dwolla with a chance to take a leadership role within the Des Moines community.

“It was an opportunity to give back to the community and to help kids identify what they might want to do in the future,” Leeper said. “For the kids who attended, they got to learn about companies like Dwolla and to learn how they might go about choosing a career path and choosing a company to work for.”

Smith said Pride Camp is already scheduled for the 2019 summer. Iowa Safe Schools will organize a week-long camp from July 15-19.

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