Gordon's Inaugural CodeOrlando Camp Inspired Participating Students
ORLANDO - Aaron Gordon, who is getting ready to start his sixth season with the Orlando Magic, is on a mission to empower youth and broaden their minds through technology, innovation and collaboration.
With enormous support from his mother, Shelly Davis Gordon, and several Orlando-based organizations, the 23-year-old’s first attempt at achieving this long-term goal was, by far and away, a huge success.
On Friday, Aug. 2, the 6-foot-9 forward was on hand to congratulate the 31 teenagers graduating from the Gordon Family Giving Foundation’s inaugural CodeOrlando camp, which introduced the students from various Orlando schools to coding, robotics and nanotechnology.
During the ceremony at The Fortress, Full Sail University’s 11,200-square-foot esports arena, the five different teams unveiled their final projects, which included video games and virtual reality technology for pediatric hospital patients. The course, which ran for a month, allowed the students to tour various technologically-advanced facilities throughout the area.
“Very impressed, very impressed,” Gordon said. “What they were able to come up with in four weeks was incredible. They had almost fully functioning games, ideas that will last an entire lifetime for VR. It was just incredible. I am very proud of every one of the individuals that participated in CodeOrlando.”
Opening up a STEM education school that incubates passion and creativity has long been one of Gordon’s dreams. To eventually accomplish something that significant, the first step was launching CodeOrlando, designed to help youth acquire more knowledge about cutting-edge technology. The program also teaches children about the importance of teamwork and helps them enhance their communication skills.
What has made this journey even more special for the San Jose, California native is that he’s able to do it alongside his mother, a computer scientist who for 35 years worked in the semiconductor industry and like her son is extremely passionate about helping youth reach their full potential.
“She blows my mind pretty much every day in the best way possible,” Gordon said. “She’s going to continue to do great things and I’m just very lucky, very blessed to have her in my life.”
While all the knowledge they acquired over the last month was rewarding in and of itself, the students’ elation jumped to another level during the graduation when Gordon and his mother surprised each of them with a $1,000 college scholarship.
For Alayzia Bell, a 16-year-old Evans High School student, the CodeOrlando experience was truly eye-opening. She signed up for the program with a curious mind and is graduating from it with a ton of wisdom, confidence and ambition.
Grateful for the Gordons and what they provided for her and her peers, Bell says she hopes to return to the program next year, either as a student or a mentor.
“It was phenomenal,” she said. “It was insane on how exposed that we were. I didn’t know that we were going to go to Full Sail. I didn’t know that we were going to go to the Amway Center, Limitless (Technology), all of that. So, it really opened up my mind to all the opportunities that are available. It’s mind-blowing. It’s crazy. And the amount of love that Miss Shelly has shown us, it’s insane.”
“It means the world,” she added about receiving scholarship money. “It’s amazing. I didn’t realize that was going to happen.”
The plan from here for the Gordons, especially after the program exceeded their own expectations in its first year, is to grow and develop CodeOrlando even more.
What’s especially fueling them is seeing all the smiles on the children’s faces. They are confident that this experience will help kids discover new passions while they pursue their academic and professional goals.
“We would like to see this become just embedded in the Orlando community,” Davis Gordon said. “I’d love to see it as maybe an elective in some of the high school programs. I think now people are beginning to see what we are doing and I think we will have more and more companies and more and more technology and more organizations wanting to be involved.”