Connecting the Dots with STEM

Reflections from the 2019 National Summer Transportation Institute (NSTI)

By: Wendell Scales Jr., Director of College and Career Advising, Jacksonville Lighthouse College Prep Academy

How do we address the need for a diverse workforce in the 21st century while promoting greater awareness of career opportunities within the STEM industry? Make meaningful connections with our youth.

This summer, I did just that.  I had the pleasure of participating as Head Camp Counselor at the 2019 National Summer Transportation Institute (NSTI) hosted by the College of Engineering and Information Technology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. This free two-week residential program connects Arkansas high school students with civil & construction engineering programming designed to promote the various modes of the transportation industry ( e.g., highways, aviation, transit, and maritime).

For two weeks, 20 scholars received a crash course in the college experience.  The camp consisted of daily enrichment activities, introductory engineering course work and design labs that connected the dots to their weekly field excursions throughout Arkansas.  I had a full plate managing the hearts and minds of these young individuals from the ages of 13-17. I examined each scholar holistically and encouraged them to be more intentional with the opportunities. Throughout the camp, each scholar was more passionate and displayed a greater sense of appreciation for their education.

NSTI changed lives and inspired young Arkansans to pursue STEM professions. Each scholar left with a network of friends and professionals they could call their own. I left with a greater appreciation of time spent — a love language many of our young people haven’t received. The youth are our future, but if everyone doesn’t take the time to encourage, love, inspire, and guide them, how will it look?