Posted on Friday, June 30, 2017

Scores of middle school girls will be exercising their intellectual muscles this summer at Paul D. Camp and Patrick Henry Community Colleges.

The two community colleges were selected along with three others in Iowa and Tennessee to take part in a pilot project designed to encourage girls from rural America to give STEM careers a closer look.

The program will expose 50 middle school girls from each of the colleges to the fundamentals of augmented reality, coding, 3D design, entrepreneurship and design thinking principles.

Justina Nixon-Saintil, director of education for the Verizon Foundation which partnered with the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship to launch the program, says the current STEM landscape is decidedly “male-centric.” Statistics confirm that assertion and she drew from her own personal experience to highlight the disparity.

When she graduated from college back in the 90s, Nixon-Saintil says she was one of only a handful of women who received degrees in mechanical engineering. She adds things haven’t changed much since that time. And, she points out that STEM opportunities are typically limited in rural areas where poverty levels, in some cases, can be off the charts.

“We want to get kids excited and engaged around STEM at an early age. What we found is that middle school is where you can really get them excited in different ways about coding, technology and STEM in general.”

Patrick Henry Community College President Angeline Godwin says they’re thrilled to be a part of the program.

“With this partnership, 50 of our local girls get an unparalleled first-hand encounter with science, technology, and engineering. These girls represent a rising generation of workers, and the jobs this camp prepares them for will be the future of our economy. Helping these girls discover their talents and their love for science and technology ensures a better and brighter future for them and for everyone.”

Paul D. Camp Community College President Dan Lufkin is equally enthusiastic about the project.

“This is not only a wonderful opportunity for girls in grades six through eight in our service region who are interested in STEM, but it also supports our recent initiative to be more entrepreneurial.”

While similar programs have surfaced in urban areas around the U.S., Nixon-Saintil says this program is unique in that it focuses exclusively on girls, especially those from rural communities.

“Our focus at Verizon is really around bringing these hands-on STEM learning opportunities to those in need and those who are under-represented in STEM. With this initiative, we hope to encourage more girls to go into tech fields.”

The camp, which is free of charge, will run from July 10th – 28th at both colleges.

*Featured photo used with permission.'

Craig Butterworth

A native of Richmond, Craig Butterworth is an award-winning broadcast journalist and communications professional. He has worked as a spokesperson, staff writer and editor for a variety of non-profit and for-profit organizations throughout the Richmond area.

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