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Summer of Science

Enrichment program brings science and technology to students.

From building model satellites to learning about bridges, this summer has been a high-tech adventure for a handful of Alexandria students participating in a five-week summer enrichment program. The course — known as the Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Science Summer Academy — concludes this week with a closing ceremony at George Washington Middle School. The TEMS Academy began on July 5, and it will conclude with a ceremony on Aug. 4 that will showcase the students’ summer experience.

“What I like about the program is that it’s geared toward underrepresented students, like women and minorities,” said teacher Tamelyn Carmon. “I feel like if the kids see someone like themselves it will help.”

The academy is open to rising seventh, eighth and ninth graders in Alexandria City Public Schools. Students learn through math programs, science experiments, desktop publishing, guest speakers, field trips and even career development. Teacher Reggie Grooms works with the students on building resumes and exploring job opportunities.

“This is the first time that many of these students are thinking about college,” Grooms said. “What I like about the program is that I can instill a desire to go to college at a young age.”

FOR STUDENTS, the academy is a chance to explore new intellectual territory during the otherwise languid summer months. Renzo Garcia, a rising eighth grader, was part of a group of students that built a model satellite. In the process, she learned about orbiting spacecraft, scientific research and optical technology.

“I learned that these things have a lot of cameras,” she said, pointing to the cameras on the students’ model satellite.

For many, the experience can be life changing. Raymond Ejiofor, a recent T.C. Williams graduate who won the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship, participating in the TEMS Academy sparked an intense interest in science that shaped his future.

“For me, it started a spark of interest,” Ejiofor said. “After that, I just became consumed with engineering.”

Program coordinator Peter Balas said that the program is successful because of its dedicated teachers and interactive nature. For example, he said, the students learned about robotics in the classroom before experiencing the robotics laboratory at George Mason University during a field trip.

“The kids have a great time, and they get to actually apply that they learned in the classroom,” Balas said. “I like the energy of the teachers, and the kids get excited when they see that the teachers are excited.”