Kentucky State University (KSU) and Verizon continue to partner to provide high-quality access to STEM educational resources to minority males.

More than 110 sixth through eighth graders from Fayette and Franklin counties are attending the Verizon Innovative Learning Program Summer Academy at Kentucky State University from July 10 – 28.

The summer academy is the culminating event for the yearlong program which engages students in STEM subjects and aims to increase interest in attending college.

“It’s not just a summer program and then it’s done,” Melanie Trowel, a science teacher at Carter G. Woodson Academy in Lexington, said. “It’s a yearlong partnership that has taken place. The students come out on Saturdays to Bracktown Baptist Church and work with kids at Newton’s Attic. They continue building on entrepreneurial skills, 3D design, and programming.”

Activities thus far have included designing weather stations, 3D design, 3D printing and mobile app development.

“The most exciting thing I’ve learned is how to program an app,” Andre’ Garcia, a student at Carter G. Woodson Academy in Lexington, said. “(In one class) we had to code something where a rabbit popped out of a hat. I’ve never gotten to work with apps before and I feel like KSU helped me do it.”

The summer academy is the result of a grant from the Verizon Foundation to Kentucky State to implement the Verizon Innovative Learning Program.

“Roadblocks that continue to challenge minority males in their pursuit of success in STEM fields include disparity in access to high-quality STEM educational resources; a lack of role models; and a shortage of highly trained, minority STEM educators,” Derrick Gilmore, Director of Office Research, Grants, and Sponsored Programs at KSU, said.

Gilmore said the program’s objective is to increase areas of technology proficiency, interest in STEM subjects, interest in attending college, interest in STEM careers, attendance in school, and knowledge of computer applications and 3D modeling for participating students.

“KSU is part of the original cohort of four HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) to be supported by the Verizon Foundation to implement the VIL Program,” Gilmore said.

Kentucky State was recently granted an additional $400,000 over three years from the Verizon Foundation. KSU initially received $400,000 from Verizon to be used over two years in 2015.

“The seeds from the initial $400,000 have increased our corporate relations, have increased our relations with community partnerships and networks,” Gilmore said.

The program has also allowed for a mentoring program that pairs Kentucky State students with the middle-school aged students.

“We’ve grown an organic system where these young men, our KSU students, are now taking a social responsibility to reach back and help those who look like them and who hope one day to be in their position or to be a college student,” Gilmore said.

The summer academy concluded on July 28 with team challenges.