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Campus News

Genesis pre-college program uses coding and cooking to build Jewish identity

Students in the visual arts track of the Genesis pre-college summer program at Brandeis take part in a drawing exercise on perspective. (Ty Ueda)
Students in the visual arts track of the Genesis pre-college summer program at Brandeis take part in a drawing exercise on perspective. (Ty Ueda)

By Ira Stoll
JTA

Mary Pridgen is an innovation-minded teenager who doesn’t like to waste time.

Volunteering in politics in Biloxi, Mississippi, Pridgen long had been vexed by a recurring problem: how to diplomatically extricate herself from meetings with long-winded people.

So when she arrived at the Brandeis campus this summer for the technology track of a pre-college summer program focused on experiential learning and Jewish community, Pridgen came up with a solution: She designed a pair of shoes that generates a call to your cellphone when you click the heels together, giving you an excuse to leave.

It was one of the things that Pridgen, 15, said she loved about the Genesis program, which draws high school students from around the world for two- or four-week mini-courses ranging from culinary art and anthropology to science and social entrepreneurship – all with a Jewish lens.

Another reason Pridgen enjoyed her time at Brandeis, she said, was because there are “not a lot of Jewish people in Mississippi, but there are a lot of Jewish people here.”

(I wanted to continue my conversation with Pridgen, but I was worried her phone was going to ring.)

Experts in the field teach the courses. The wearable technology laboratory track was led by Russel Neiss, a software engineer at the Jewish text website Sefaria. Many of the program participants arrived with no coding experience, he said, and in the space of two weeks learned the skills to complete projects like the shoes or a “fairy dress” that lights up when it moves.

“It’s sort of a magical thing,” Neiss said.

Read more about the Genesis program at Brandeis.

Categories: Campus News
Date: August 25, 2017