For Immediate Release
There are summer camps for sports, music and practically every other imaginable activity: away camps, day camps, and even online camps… and then there is Southwest.
The summer camps at Southwest Tennessee Community College concentrated mostly on technological programs. For instance, one contingent of 10th graders operated as forensic entrepreneurs, marketing DNA ID kits at child care centers throughout the city. “These were our GEAR-UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) interns,” said Angela Ventura-Wooten, executive director of special academic programs, sponsor of many special summer activities. While GEAR-UP directors Vanessa Dowdy and Dr. LaDonna Young directed and oversaw the GEAR-UP camp, Wooten provided needed funds through the bioscience grant for stipends and the DNA kits.
“These youngsters are of an age to pursue summer jobs and the stipends were an enticement to bring them into the program,” said Young. The bioscience grant, along with GEAR-UP grant funds, also partly funded a portion of the instruction for their studies and training for their forensic marketing efforts. Dowdy and Young supervised the learning phase – instruction in fingerprinting and DNA sampling techniques and in some business basics.
First they learned how to take fingerprints and DNA samples. Then, divided into teams – “companies” – of eight or nine students each, they developed their business plans. Field trips were set up under the auspices of Southwest’s service learning and civic engagement office to visit child care centers, where they “marketed” their product. The fingerprints and DNA samples they obtained were incorporated into the kits that they distributed to about 200 youngsters to take home to their parents as part of a child safety effort. In addition to their entrepreneurial adventure, the GEAR-UP students attended English and math classes focused on ACT exam preparation.
GEAR-UP is a year-round program at Southwest that includes summer enrichment camps and a college coach mentor to support students through high school, preparing them for postsecondary education. A secondary learning experience this summer was finding that, if they didn’t do their work well – goofed off – they were sent home and their pay was docked. According to Dowdy, “They learned quickly!”
This year’s summer programs attracted more than 100 high school students to the Macon Cove Campus for the annual Bioscience Summer Institute. In addition to the forensic interns, a group of “Bioscience Career Ladder” students interested in Southwest’s biotechnology technician program enrolled. Their activities included a biotechnology laboratory and special general elective classes focused on ACT exam preparation. Dual enrollment classes in engineering technology drew students who are concentrating on completing their technical certificates before high school graduation.
“The career ladder students are preparing to enroll after their high school graduation in Southwest’s biotechnology technician associate of applied science degree program,” said Wooten. “This is a special admissions degree with stricter entry requirements than most programs, and their studies now are helping them prepare both for the ACT and for courses they must complete before they will be allowed to declare their major.”
Most of the dual enrolled students began their engineering technology certificates in fall 2008, and now have completed the first semester’s work. “They will continue through the next academic year and receive their certificates in May 2010, when they complete high school,” said Wooten. “Some will continue in engineering technology at Southwest or another college, or use their new skills to finance their further education. Either way, by the time they finish high school, they will have achieved strong career entry skills.”
Photo caption: Trevon Mills prepares to take a DNA sample for one of the DNA ID kits that GEAR-UP students prepared and distributed at Memphis child care centers.
Photo caption: Jarvis Smith fingerprinted youngsters in child care centers throughout the city for DNA ID kits.