A $15,000 grant from Verizon to the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith will help more girls in the greater Fort Smith region learn about and pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
J.J. Vignault, Ginger Daril and Lee Deloach of Verizon, along with state Sen. Jake Files, presented the check to UAFS during the university’s Board of Visitors meeting Sept. 23, with the gift funding a summer camp at the university for girls interested in pursuing careers in the STEM field.
“In the next few years, approximately 80 percent of jobs will require STEM skills, so it’s critical that we train today’s students to excel in these fields,” Daril said. “The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith is making a significant impact on students in the Greater Arkansas River Valley area with its STEM programs, and we anticipate many success stories from these young innovators.”
The UAFS-Verizon STEM Camp for Girls will be open to junior high school students and make STEM fields accessible and fun by featuring hands-on experiments in STEM areas, mentoring by female STEM professionals, and real-life applications of STEM concepts in various industries.
Teachers can also take advantage of professional development opportunities during the camp, according to Dr. Jen Jamison, assistant professor of chemistry and co-organizer of the camp.
“We will provide them with instructional aids and resources to help them integrate content from our modules into their existing lesson plans,” Jamison said. “During the camp, they get to implement what they have learned while teaching camp students.”
“It's a way for teachers to become more confident and innovative in their approach to teaching STEM at their schools,” Jamison continued. “In this manner, this camp will be a win-win for not only UAFS, but also the River Valley community.”
The camp is modeled off a previous summer camp at UAFS called Green Academy, coordinated by Jamison and Sabrina Gomez, instructor of electronics technology. Following the success of Green Academy, Jamison and Gomez proposed a similar camp to Verizon but with a broader scope, focusing on more branches of STEM and emphasizing innovation in those fields.
“We are incredibly appreciative for the opportunity to host this camp, which will bring awareness of STEM career opportunities to junior high school females in our region,” Gomez said. “We hope camps like the UAFS-Verizon STEM Camp for Girls will encourage more young females to enter STEM fields and find success.”
Dr. Ron Darbeau, dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, echoed Gomez’s sentiments.
“I am grateful for the dedication and hard work of Dr. Jamison and Ms. Gomez and for Verizon's wisdom and generosity in supporting this noteworthy endeavor,” Darbeau said. “The enterprise of science is enriched by broader participation across all demographics. Activities that spark and nurture girls' interest in STEM ensure a future in which more women bring their significant talent to the discipline, thereby benefiting us all.”
Dr. Mary Lackie, vice chancellor for university advancement and executive director of the UAFS Foundation, said the grant will make an impact on students in local schools.
“We are thrilled that Verizon chose to partner with us to provide this opportunity to young girls in our community,” Lackie said. “We hope that it will help them to see the opportunities for women in STEM careers and that they will further their educations at UAFS after they graduate from high school.”
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