The University of Arkansas at Little Rock partnered with 100 Black Men of Greater Little Rock, Ambitious Girls, Inc., Central Arkansas Water, and the Arkansas National Guard to host a weeklong summer environmental STEM (Summer, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) program for teens.
The H20 Leadership Institute is a co-ed collaboration with 100 SMART Academy mentees and Ambitious Girls Inc. mentees. Fifteen students in grades 7-12 from eight schools took part in the summer program that was held July 12-16 in partner locations around central Arkansas.
“We know our community needs to provide skill development for the next generation of leaders and the H2O Leadership Institute is a gateway for life-changing exposure,” said Wendell Scales Jr., vice president of 100 Black Men of Greater Little Rock and a UA Little Rock alumnus. “We believe this could be the very piece our organization was missing to advance economic development with a commitment to our youth.”
The program goals focus on providing career access, regional exposure, skill development, and networking opportunities to H20 participants. According to studies from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the STEM workforce is recession-proof.
“There are plenty of programs for exceptional students, but there are limited opportunities for other students who do not have perfect ACT scores and 4.0 GPA,” said Vernard Henley, assistant dean of the Donaghey College of STEM at UA Little Rock. “This program is unique in providing academic and leadership opportunities to academically capable students who are often overlooked.”
UA Little Rock served as a host site for some of the program’s events, including an excursion to Coleman Creek for water testing, a chemistry class, and a mentoring lunch at the Jack Stephens Center with Leadership Greater Little Rock Class XXXV. Jordan Grice, a UA Little Rock sophomore and Chancellor’s Leadership Corps Scholar, served as a peer leader for the program.
Program participants also visited other sites around central Arkansas, including Camp Robinson, Little Rock Water Reclamation Authority, Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, and Maumelle River Field Station.
“I am very excited to show young women and men in our communities how much we care for our environment,” said Camp Robinson liaison Lt. Col. Will Phillips. “They will have the opportunity to see that the military does more things than just fly planes and drive tanks.”