Program helps students acquire math, science and tech skills

With students from Dover Central and William Henry Middle School, Delaware State University President, Harry L. Williams, center, holds a $400,000 check that was donated by Verizon during The Verizon Innovative Learning Program at Delaware State University on Tuesday.  (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

With students from Dover Central and William Henry Middle schools and other officials, Delaware State University President, Harry L. Williams, center, holds a $400,000 check that was donated by Verizon during The Verizon Innovative Learning Program at Delaware State University on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Forty middle-school boys started a three-week summer program Monday funded by Verizon.

Its goal?

To expand their math and science knowledge by learning skills ranging from 3D modeling to app development.

The program, known as the Verizon Innovative Learning Program, is in operation in a dozen cities nationwide. It’s open to middle school minority boys.

Students from Dover Central and William Henry Middle School listens to speakers during The Verizon Innovative Learning Program at Delaware State University on Tuesday.

Students from Dover Central and William Henry Middle School listens to speakers during The Verizon Innovative Learning Program at Delaware State University on Tuesday.

Verizon announced its funding of the $400,000 program at Delaware State University on Tuesday.

“Technology is the key to success and it must start early in life,” said Verizon Vice President Tony Lewis. “We can give these young men a chance to show us what they can do when given an opportunity like this.”

All 40 kids — students at either William Henry or Central Middle in Capital School District — attended the announcement.

“Math and science are my favorite classes,” said Tyler Henry, a sixth-grader at William Henry. “I’m probably most excited to learn how to build apps.”

The students were chosen for the program based not only on gender and minority status, but by interest and grades in math and science courses.

“In middle school, you’re at the point that the work you do now will set you up for the best classes in high school which will set you up for scholarships and opportunities to succeed in college,” said Capital Superintendent Dan Shelton while addressing the program’s students.

Since the program is new, the four instructors went to training earlier this year and can’t wait to teach the students what they’ve learned.

“It’s very exciting, and we know that the kids are just going to love all of it,” said William Henry teacher and

Verizon Regional Vice President Tony Lewis speaks during The Verizon Innovative Learning Program at Delaware State University on Tuesday.

Verizon Regional Vice President Tony Lewis speaks during The Verizon Innovative Learning Program at Delaware State University on Tuesday.

Innovative Learning Program instructor Shawndell Solomon. “I know the parents are excited, too, because they came to our open house Monday night and saw what the kids will be working on and how well they’re already working together.”

Monday’s session started with 3D designing on the computer. Ms. Solomon said that from video games, many of the boys were already familiar with making 3D designs.

“The level at which they’re entering the program is really impressive,” she said. “I’m sure they’re going to be teaching us soon.”

Tyler agreed.

“I like 3D modeling and coming up with things that don’t already exist,” he said. “I’ll be able to expand my thoughts and think outside the box. And I heard we’ll be able to print out some of our ideas on a 3D printer, so that will be really cool.”

Ms. Solomon and three other teachers are working with three DSU students to manage the kids during the 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. program.

“It seems like a long time to just be sitting at a computer and doing work, which it is. So the kids will also be getting some gym and outdoor time,” she said. “And it’s great for parents because not only are their kids learning, they’re basically at a free day camp which is something a lot of parents can’t afford.”

Students from Dover Central and William Henry Middle School listen to Gov. Jack Markell during The Verizon Innovative Learning Program at Delaware State University on Tuesday.

Students from Dover Central and William Henry Middle School listen to Gov. Jack Markell during The Verizon Innovative Learning Program at Delaware State University on Tuesday.

The summer camp takes place at DSU, the fifth historically black college or university to participate in the program.

“While we work year-round to produce success stories among our students at the university level, through this program the university can also offer elementary to high school-age youths opportunities,” said DSU President Harry Williams.

Although the program is starting over only three weeks this summer, the $400,000 from Verizon will keep the program running as an after- school program for at least the next two school years.

The program was founded in 2015 by Verizon to address what they considered to be an urgent need. In recent years, science, technology, engineering and mathematics initiatives have focused largely on girls.

Verizon officials said that of 300 students surveyed in the program, 75 percent had an increased interest in STEM and 96 percent had an increased interest in pursuing a STEM-related career.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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