A Springfield native who pursued a STEM degree and now teaches math in New York City is bringing a successful STEM camp program home from Harlem this summer.
Yvonne Thevenot, a graduate of Springfield North, is the director of STEM Kids NYC, an after-school and summer camp program. She was recently nominated as a 2016 PBS Learning Media Digital Innovator.
She’s partnering with Trinity A.M.E. Church and former Springfield City Schools Superintendent Jean Harper to host a two-week summer camp for children ages 6 to 16.
The goal is to give young children, especially those who might not otherwise get exposed to STEM fields, an early taste of the possibilities.
As a young woman pursuing an information systems degree at the University of Dayton and working in labs during internships, Thevenot said she learned she needed to be resilient to succeed.
“I now have created an environment where my students don’t feel as intimidated by computers,” she said. “Especially for students who are from under-represented communities. I want them to kind of have an identity … They too can be a scientist, they too can be a computer programmer or an engineer or a mathematician.”
The camp will be a mixture of fun including arts and sports, mixed into classes on learning to code and create apps, and also learning to invent things using engineering concepts.
Campers will also get to go on several field trips where they can see products and systems go from beginning to end.
“It’s very important for kids to really understand how things work,” Thevenot said.
Thevenot’s father, who formerly worked for IBM, inspired her love of technology at a young age. His lung cancer diagnosis has her travelling home to Springfield more often, and she thought it was the perfect opportunity to honor her dad and give back to the community that helped shape her.
“He was the one person who always pushed me, not only just into computers, but pushed me to exceed … and also taught me to give back,” she said.
“Education really is the fuel, particularly in communities like ours where it is the access to moving forward,” Thevenot said.
The camp will be funded by local donations. There will be a transportation route to help students get to Trinty A.M.E. on Selma Road each day. The camp will run 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. five days per week, June 20 through July 1.
It’s open to any children in the county and the organizers aim to have about 35 to 40 campers.
There will be a modest fee for the camp but Thevenot is hoping to offer scholarships.
“I just love the energy that is being brought to the project,” Harper said. “I think it will be exciting for kids and that they will find new and different ways to think about learning and about professions.”
She hopes the camp will have a positive impact for kids who attend in their next school year.
“We’re all working together to achieve one thing, the improvement of skills for our children,” said Trinity’s Rev. Peggy Turner about the community collaboration to put on the camp.
Thevenot hopes early exposure to STEM fields can lead to students qualifying for more advanced experiences down the road, like the Johns Hopkins engineering programs hosted this summer for middle and high school students at Clark State Community College.
Those interested in the camp can text @STEMKids to 81010 or email Thevenot at firstname.lastname@example.org.