Camp exposes Ward 7, 8 students to new career fields

Some of the campers walk to get lunch after their tour of Reagan National Airport on Tuesday, August 6, 2013. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)

WASHINGTON – A camp for students from D.C.’s Wards 7 and 8 aims at opening up their minds by exposing them to potential career fields.

The East of the River Career Exposure Camp is a budding non-profit that focuses on STEM + A, a curriculum that “merge the boundaries of science, technology engineering and math, while connecting these subjects to arts and the humanities,” according to District of Columbia Public Schools. The STEM + A careers have historically-low minority participation, according to camp administrator Kellie Didigu.

Introducing the students to a variety of careers before they go to high school can help them plan their futures, she says.

“They really don’t know what kind of opportunities are out there. Most people would think of a lawyer, a doctor, a policeman — we want them to see there are so many different directions they can go,” Didigu says.

Volunteer professionals with the National Coalitiion of Black Federal Aviation Employees hosted the group of 15 students Tuesday at Reagan National Airport for a tour and a look inside the air traffic control towers.

Titilayo Lawoyyn, a 14-year-old camper, says the best part was seeing the air traffic controllers at work.

“Looking in and out of the towers and seeing how planes come in and out, and seeing how fast they talk. They talk really fast,” Lawoyyn says of her favorite part of the day.

In this, the camp’s third year, the focus is on aviation and architecture. The latter topic excites 11-year-old camper Zahir Muhammad.

“I want to be a civil engineer. So like, build houses and stuff. And I also want to try to build an airport … or design an airport,” Muhammad says.

The program is free for the seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade campers who register.

Starting in January, camp organizers meet with the group monthly to introduce the participants to different career fields via volunteer professionals. Next August, Didigu says they hope to expand the camp to two weeks.

The program is run in combination with donations from program sponsors and volunteers from the community, Didigu says.

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