Camp partnership brings summer STEM program to local middle school girls

Kalia Robinson and mother LaToya RichardsonKalia Robinson of Suffolk shows her mother, LaToya Richardson, a ring and chain “trick” based on physics.
Paul D. Camp Community College kicked off its 3rd year introducing middle school girls in its service region to subjects in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through its partnership with Verizon Innovative Learning (VIL) and the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE). This year’s summer event got underway July 15 at Camp’s Regional Workforce Development Center in Franklin with an array of activities.
“This year’s cohort of 55 girls was engaged in technology as soon as they walked on campus,” said VIL STEM Camp Director Keisha Nichols, who is also associate professor of Industrial Technology at the college. “Ellipse tablets were distributed to each camper, email addresses were created and access to the internet was granted. Additional activities based upon STEAM (including arts) concepts were also incorporated during daily makerspace time.”
Collaboration within the college helped introduce the girls to a number of topics. According to Nichols, the first day was geared to get moving, but also to get to know their “VIL camp sisters.” “The jumpstart activity got underway with the athletics department’s “get-up-and-move” session, headed up by Athletic Director Carrie Hoeft and Head Soccer Coach/Campus Life Coordinator Clay Hyatt,” said Nichols.
Success Coach Dr. Sandra Walker led a session focused on bullying and self-esteem. In addition, Recruitment and Admissions Specialist Ellis Cofield led the campers on a tour of the Franklin Campus. “They explored the tech labs, bookstore, library, classrooms and even witnessed current Upward Bound students in action,” she added.
Nichols was assisted by Camp Counselor Riste Hall-Blow, a former Upward Bound student, and Senior Camp Instructor Ellen Peterson, technology/STEM teacher at Smithfield Middle School. Three new camp instructors include middle school teachers Kim Eure of Isle of Wight County Public Schools, Jill Mizelle of Suffolk City Public Schools and Irving Ricks of Surry County Public Schools.
“We would not have been able to do this without our community partners,” said Nichols. “Cover 3 Foundation provided breakfast and lunches for STEM camp girls and Camp25 provided transportation. We are also very fortunate to have other volunteers from middle schools who have been instrumental as daily class aides and helpers to the campers.”
The group held an Expo Aug. 2 for family and the community by displaying projects that identify and provide solutions to challenges in their community using technology, as in alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The showcase portion was followed by a closing ceremony, however the camp is not completed.
“The summer camp portion is over,” said Nichols. “However, we will continue to meet one Saturday each month beginning this September. The girls will have a graduation ceremony, where they will be presented certificates in May 2020.”
For more information about Verizon’s Innovative Learning STEM program, visit

Mikaylah JoseyMikaylah Josey, 12, of Suffolk keeps up with one of the drones until it is her turn to operate the controls.

Layla Criner Kadence CrockettLayla Criner, 10, from left, and Kadence Crockett, 11, both of Suffolk, demonstrate how the small Ozobots will follow a color coded pathway created with markers or how it will also follow finger movements.