Special to The Dallas Examiner
For the fifth year in a row, Richland College is partnering with Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold, to host the first half of a four-week summer camp for young women focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers. The camp is one portion of the Girls Inc. “Eureka!” model program.
This year’s camp is comprised of a new group of campers entering eighth grade that has committed to the “Eureka!” program through their senior year of high school.
The program exposes girls to opportunities and experiences where they can see themselves as important parts of the STEM workforce of the future. While at Richland, the girls will participate in STEM and arts sessions, including robotics, programming, clay art, printmaking, dance and digital literacy.
“The focus of the camp is to expose the girls to engineering topics and lab experiences designed to encourage them to choose careers in STEM fields,” said Simona Farcasiu, Richland electronics faculty member and lead faculty for the Richland portion of the camp. “Through exposure to a group of female role models from both industry and Richland College, we hope these girls will feel inspired to break through barriers.”
During the digital literacy session, the campers will learn about online searches, online scams, cyber bullying, safe online talk, how to present oneself online and more, with the goal being to provide the girls with necessary tools to keep themselves safe and conduct themselves appropriately in an increasingly digital world.
Along with STEM career awareness, college awareness is another important part of “Eureka!” Also, being at Richland during the camp gives the girls a feel for college life as they interact with college students, faculty and staff.
“This joint camp with Girls Inc. is an excellent way to empower young women to pursue careers in STEM fields, while also allowing us to share the wonderful opportunities Richland College has to offer and the value of a higher education,” said Shannon Cunningham, executive vice president of academic affairs and student success at Richland.
Since Richland offers a variety of STEM-related programs, including both traditional two-year degree programs and workforce-ready certificates, campers will take part in hands on STEM activities.
“Richland College is an integral partner for the Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas ‘Eureka!’ program,” said Erin Chupka, vice president of program services for Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas. “During the two weeks Girls Inc., girls spend at the Richland campus, they have the opportunity to participate in STEM workshops with dedicated and engaging Richland faculty and are exposed to life on a college campus. Richland does an exceptional job with our young girls, and they leave excited about college and career opportunities in STEM. As each group of girls moves through the five-year program, the ‘Girls Inc. Experience’ equips them to navigate gender, economic and social barriers and to grow into healthy, educated and independent women. We are grateful for the support of our incredible partners like Richland in helping to change the face of STEM and improve economic mobility for our girls and their families.”
Richland’s portion of the camp is sponsored in part by a $15,000 grant from State Farm. Upon completing their two weeks of camp at the college, the girls will be hosted for one week each at the University of North Texas at Dallas and Cedar Valley College.
The girls participating in the “Eureka!” program will spend their first two summers being exposed to higher education and STEM careers at the college and other nearby colleges before spending their third summer in externships that will provide more focused hands-on learning in several STEM career areas. Year four will be about college and career preparation, during which campers will receive assistance on how to navigate the college application process, from studying for standardized tests to writing admissions essays and applying for financial aid. In their final summer in the program, taking place before the start of their senior year of high school, the young women will each be placed into a paid internship in a STEM industry in which they have expressed interest.
In conjunction with the summer camp component of “Eureka!” all cohorts meet approximately once per month throughout the school year to participate in STEM-related field trips, workshops, career panels and more.