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STEM ENRICHMENT PROGRAM

By Dr. E. Faye Williams
 
Commentary - 7-05-2013

Like many Americans who reached adulthood before the new millennium, I grew up believing that material success and financial comfort were dictated by the acquisition and accumulation of money.  Access to money was the singular objective of many in my generation.  Some of us did our level best to “clock those dollars” for the purpose of living our lives in relative comfort.  Most of us believed our physical effort dedicated to the job would ultimately determine how much money we could make. 
Recent years have seen a dramatic shift in the dynamic of hard work for money to an environment of earnings based upon mastery of science and technology skills.  Instead of the requisite physical effort, that shift has made the development, acquisition, management and control of INFORMATION the universal commodity of exchange and the basis of earned material comfort.  This is reflected in the numerous functional operations of personal computers, tablets and “smartphones.”  We see this reflected in the proliferation of secondary and collegiate online courses, and in the transition from textbook to computer based learning.  At no other time in the history of humankind has any one of us had access to the amount of information available today. 
Unfortunately, too many children of color have been institutionally excluded or have self-excluded from learning that creates the mastery of skill-sets related to science, math and technology.  In many cases, institutional exclusion cannot be corrected by the efforts of a single individual or even committed parents.  On the other hand, self-exclusion is a matter that can be controlled through personal effort.  This self-exclusion is often based upon a lack of information about existing opportunities.

Such an unexploited opportunity is the Washington, DC-based, Shiloh Baptist Church Family Life Center Foundation’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Summer Camp that is scheduled from July 8 – August 9, 2013. 

This summer camp is presented in cooperation with NASA (National Aeronautic and Space Administration). It is a four-week enrichment program that has been developed to introduce attendees to the significance of STEM-based knowledge and career opportunities that exist upon mastery of certain principles and skills.

The Summer Enrichment Camp runs 5 days each week all day. Camp offerings include the following:  Academics (reading and math), NASA (early morning fitness), NASA STEM (projects include hands-on activities that are inquiry-based, thought-provoking and exploratory), Arts and crafts, Music (includes folk dancing, body/ hand percussion instruments, drums and more), Breakfast /lunch /snack, Before and after care, Field trip and Water play activity.

Oprah Winfrey has stated her belief that “The single greatest thing you can do to change your life today would be to start being grateful for what you have right now.  And the more grateful you are, the more you get”.
When I first heard about the STEM program at Shiloh, I was grateful that one of our historic churches was doing such a program for our children.  My prayer is that every church in our communities across the country is doing similar programs to continue helping our young people live up to their potential. 

When opportunities such as this come up, we need to be ready and willing to take advantage of them.  It’s been proven that when our children do nothing over the summer, they lose much of what they’ve learned during the past year.  That’s not something we should allow to happen when parents have choices to prevent it.  Some have been so moved by this program that they’ve donated funds to help young people who are interested, but have no means to pay the full fee.  It’s not too late.  Students may enter the program at any point. Call the office of the National Congress of Black Women at 202/678-6788 and we will tell you how.

(Dr. E. Faye Williams is Chair of the National Congress of Black Women, 202/678-6788,
www.nationalcongressbw.org.)

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