Whitt is now working for Roberts and planning to attend Santa Monica College this fall to study computer science, while also trying to expand the popularity of digital currencies.
“My friends, they’re looking at money in a different way than just buying the latest pair of shoes,” she said. “Bitcoin, it’s going somewhere. Any company and any store is going to accept bitcoin or some type of digital currency.”
Roberts’ camp may be the only one of its kind in the U.S., though it’s beginning to inspire others, especially among Black bitcoin investors.
Isaiah Jackson, author of the book “Bitcoin & Black America” and a bitcoin podcaster, said he plans to start taking sign-ups next week for an online-only cryptocurrency camp in July. Part of the motivation, he said, is making sure Black youth don’t get left behind in an emerging field the way they were in the development of the internet. No major tech CEOs are Black, he noted.
“If bitcoin’s going to become mainstream, Black people need to be involved, so we need to start now,” he said. “Bitcoin’s literally made for us to be self-sovereign.”
The camp will use a kid-focused book, “Bitcoin Elementary.” And the final project in the camp will be to create a nonfungible token, or NFT, a digital file such as a piece of artwork that’s certified as unique with blockchain technology.
Square, a San Francisco-based digital payments company, has committed to help fund the camp, Jackson said, and he’s looking for other donations. His camp will be aimed at children in grades 6 through 10 — an age when they’ve already got experience with online tokens through gaming platforms such as Roblox, he said.
“They’ve seen digital money. They understand it. And you just have to set them on the right path and teach them what to do,” he said.
“Parents should teach them how to be responsible, just as they will with any other form of money, but I don’t think anybody should be restricted from owning bitcoin,” he said.
Some of the children attending cryptocurrency summer camps have gotten nudges from their parents, said Maunda Land, a consultant and investor in Florida who started an online-only camp this week. Of the five students in her first camp, four had parents who own digital currency, she said.
And because the students are underage, they may need help from their parents to initially fund their digital wallet through a bank account or some other payment method, she said.
“Their homework was to get their wallet funded,” she said. But already, she added, “A couple of them had a little crypto that their parents had bought for them.”
At the Los Angeles camp, children displayed how much they already knew. When Roberts asked them near the start of camp if they could name some types of cryptocurrencies, they shouted out several including Dogecoin and the Shiba Inu token.
She also spent time going through the history of currency, explaining how trade has evolved over time from bartering with animals to using seashells as money to printing paper currency backed by governments.
Ciris Hendricks, the chief operations officer of the camp, said they would have planned for more children to attend if not for uncertainty around Covid-19 and local health regulations. And eventually they want to encourage public schools to adopt similar programs, not just in Los Angeles but also nationwide.
“We want to get it set up to the point where it’s in each city,” she said.