Participants in the Girls Inc. Eureka program show off their circuitry project developed at Worcester State University

At Worcester State, Activity Abounds during the Dog Days of Summer

August 19, 2016
By: Christine Hickman

While the pace in many Worcester State University offices slows over the summer months, some gear up. Among them are the Latino Education Institute, Multicultural Affairs Office, and Urban Studies, Mathematics, Education, and Visual and Performing Arts departments, which all offered or sponsored educational, civic engagement, and college preparation programs for underrepresented groups this summer.

The Latino Education Institute regularly engages in a wide variety of programming during the summer, including a leadership retreat and a summer camp.

Four Worcester high school students and three senior LEI staff members attended the “Youth Leadership Institute,” an annual event that “brings together youth leaders, adult allies, educators, and community partners from across New England” to develop and promote student-centered learning in New England schools and communities. The representatives attending the conference receive Youth Leadership Grants from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.

The summer camp is a collaboration with Girls, Inc. for middle school girls from Worcester, called “My Voice, My Community, Our World.” The program focuses on violence prevention and the impact of violence against women and girls through a variety of activities, including leadership training, cultural appreciation activities, and time at Worcester’s Camp Kinneywood, where they can swim, boat, and hike.

Assistant Vice President for Urban Affairs and Executive Director of the LEI Mary Jo Marion said that the camp culminates in service-learning project presentations in which girls present their ideas on how to improve their community.

“The girls go around their local communities and take pictures for research, and then they present what they see in those pictures, about what works and what needs improvement,” she said.

The LEI also organized a four-week summer camp in Springfield, Mass., for middle school girls that focused on civic engagement. Facilitated by the LEI’s Springfield office, the program provided activities for girls to build their self-esteem, explore the idea of “community,” and how to work towards positive change.

The year-round work of the Multicultural Affairs Office to support prospective WSU students from underrepresented groups included hosting a summer academy for this year’s new Alternatives for Individual Development Program (A.I.D.) participants.

In this six-week summer academy, A.I.D. participants come to the WSU campus to earn three to 12 credits toward their degree. Participants live and study on campus, giving them an early taste of college life. Academic and financial aid advising as well as individualized support systems are also available to participants.

The Urban Studies Department’s partnership with the Girls, Inc. enabled WSU to once again be a site for the nonprofit organization’s Eureka program, which caters to 8th and 9th grade girls. The Mathematics, Education, and Visual and Performing Arts departments also were involved.

The young women from area schools worked with math, urban studies, and education faculty to explore STEM-related careers. Their projects include completing logic puzzles, running a circuitry experiment, learning how to analyze city data, and working in the Garden for All Ages. VPA faculty hosted them for a workshop on the Fuller Theater stage.

According to Thomas Conroy, chair of the Urban Studies Department, the program focuses mainly on STEM, but program organizers were looking to diversify the activities to “shake things up” so that participants wouldn’t be “stuck in the classroom all day.”

About the Photo: Participants in the Girls Inc. Eureka program show off their circuitry project developed with guidance from the WSU math faculty.

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