Discovery Summer Program leads children to explore future careers

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The Discovery Summer Program at Virginia Commonwealth University provides a quality summer experience for diverse youth on an urban campus, challenging and supporting them to dream, explore and investigate.

The program, part of the Summer Programs at the Mary and Frances Youth Center, sparks future career exploration for sixth through eighth graders. Topics include science, technology, engineering, mathematics and arts and health sciences. The half- and full-day week-long courses are taught by VCU faculty and students, community members and local middle-school teachers. Most of the classes are held at open classrooms around the Monroe Park and MCV campuses.

This year’s program offered 24 courses over four weeks. Forensics, health and sciences and writing classes were the most popular. “Game on,” a class about making video games, proved particularly popular with the growing number of tech-savvy kids at the camp.

Nearly 120 students participated this year, most of them students who also had attended last year.

“What we want to do is have a young person come in and spark a new career option,” said Shekinah Mitchell, Discovery coordinator, “and for them to ask themselves where is their place in the world and what [can] they get excited about.”

Mitchell described the program as a “pipeline to connect kids with a future passion,” and said, “The program can be connected with higher graduation rates … once you find a motivator, you have more willingness to succeed.”

The Healthy Lifestyles portion at the end of each day keeps the kids active and teaches ways to keep their bodies healthy. Healthy Lifestyles includes activities such as tennis, swimming and field games. Swimming is held at the Cary Street Gym along with vortex, basketball, a rock-climbing wall and water slide. Field games include team building activities, field sports and water relays — to keep the kids cool on a hot day.

Discovery Summer Program partners include FeedMore, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Charles City County, Faison School, Richmond Public Schools, Peter Paul Development Center, Fairfax Boys & Girls Club and Richmond Redevelopment Housing Authority.

Through partnerships and outreach the program reaches its four goals: using an investigative approach to real-world problems, supporting in-depth exploration and skill development, promoting healthy lifestyles and lifelong physical activity opportunities, and fostering collaborative activities and deeper level or inquiry “Beyond the SOLs.”

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