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A bridge to STEM education

July 14, 2021

Courtesy of Radford University

RADFORD, Va. – Since its inception over a decade ago, the Summer Bridge Program has welcomed high school students to Radford University’s campus for a week of engaging activities that provide a window into the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and careers. The Artis College of Science and Technology host the high-tech campus event for female high school students representing diverse demographics and geographic locations across Virginia and beyond.

Summer Bridge offers active, hands-on learning in STEM and college preparation and career-based mentoring. The annual week-long residential program is an opportunity for rising sophomore, junior and senior high school students to experience life on a college campus and gain exposure to higher education while discovering opportunities to transfer STEM interests into majors and careers. Radford students, faculty and staff organize a week of creative activities and lessons that incorporate science into the daily curricula, including flying UAVs (drones), launching rockets, studying skeletons, analyzing rock formations and building peptides. Students also are introduced to real-world science applications through off-campus trips to locations throughout the New River Valley, such as Mountain Lake, TORC Robotics, Novozymes and the Selu Conservancy.

For some students, it may be the first experience away from home and an opportunity to make new friends and bond with those who share similar interests in STEM. With help from individuals as well as foundation/corporate partners like the American Electric Power Foundation, students are selected through an application process and awarded a scholarship to cover all costs of the summer program.

The American Electric Power Foundation has funded Summer Bridge since 2019.

"By increasing the pipeline of STEM students and graduates, Appalachian Power and Radford University are meeting a critical need in Virginia and throughout the nation and world to fill jobs related to STEM," said Amanda Cox, external affairs manager for Appalachian Power. "Through the Summer Bridge Program, we are excited to specifically prepare women, who are underrepresented in STEM careers, for these important positions."

For Jasmine Y. Jackson-Akers '13, D.O., an internal medicine physician in Danville, Virginia, Summer Bridge helped solidify her career goals and college choice while she was a high school junior.

“I was interested in being a biology major and joining the Premed Club at Radford University. I thought [Summer Bridge] would be a great opportunity [to include on] my college application,” said Jackson-Akers. “One of my teachers at William Fleming High School (Roanoke, Virginia) told me about [Summer Bridge] because she knew I was interested in a STEM career (physician).” After graduation, Jackson-Akers attended Radford University and majored in biology.

Summer Bridge, thanks to the generosity of the program’s supporters, continues to grow with a mission to encourage, empower and inspire young women to pursue degrees and careers in STEM. It is a figurative bridge to new opportunities and a place where like-minded students come together to chart their goals and dreams of real-world possibilities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


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