07/11/18 — Empowered for success

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Empowered for success

By Sierra Henry
Published in News on July 11, 2018 5:50 AM

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Simone Ross, 9, demonstrates a twisting helix as campers learn about DNA during science class led by retired Goldsboro High School science teacher Cheryl Alston during YESS summer camp at Rebuilding Broken Places Tuesday afternoon.

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Izzy Peterson, 8, looks into a microscope during camp. Izzy and other campers have been learning about the DNA of things like strawberries that grow in the Rebuilding Broken Places garden.

For five years, the Project YESS summer camp program has worked to encourage young children to reach for success by offering daily science, technology, engineering and math focused activities at Rebuilding Broken Places.

"The overall goal of Project YESS is to close the achievement gap for our children in our community," said Francine Smith, grant manager and program director for Rebuilding Broken Places, at 2105 N. William St.

"In order to close that gap, we need to be sure we are preparing them for their future, and their future is certainly in the sciences, technology, engineering and math fields. We want our kids to be comfortable in those fields, so that's what we do."

Twenty-six children, from kindergarten through seventh grade, are currently enrolled in the six-week program that started in late June. The children are learning about science, engineering and math in new and creative ways they may not experience otherwise.

Learning about DNA by taking samples of strawberries, kiwis and blueberries to look at under the microscope and a scavenger hunt at the local library are just a few of the activities offered during the program.

"Our children are not necessarily achieving on the level that they should be," Smith said. "Our schools are not performing at the best level, so our children are behind when it comes to being able to compete, especially on a global platform.

"We want to encourage success."

Project YESS organizers believe one way to encourage success and get kids interested in the STEM field is by providing fun and creative opportunities for children during the summer. Avoiding spending too much time in front of a television or playing video games is crucial, Smith said.

"I think it's important for kids to have something to do," she said. "To sit at home all summer long for two months in front of a TV or a video game -- I'm sorry -- that's just not enough. That's not healthy.

"Our kids need to be exposed to a lot of different things . . ., and the summer really lends itself to having those opportunities because you can go to different places and experience different things . . . You don't have to follow that stringent school schedule. You have more flexibility."

The summer camp is held at Rebuilding Broken Places, a community development corporation that was created by the Greenleaf Christian Church in 1996.

Since its inception, the corporation has been able to fill in the gaps needed within the local community, said John Barnes, chief executive officer of Rebuilding Broken Places.

"Most churches build sanctuaries, and initially that's what the church was going to do, but our mission changed," Barnes said.

Summer programs, day care centers and computer and financial classes are just a few of the programs offered by Rebuilding Broken Places. The CDC is interested in starting a job-training class in the food industry for ex-offenders by the end of the month, Barnes said.

Mark Colebrook, founder of Operation Unite Goldsboro, has helped run the Project YESS summer program for two years. He believes it is a great opportunity for kids in the community to attend a safe place during the summer and stay out of the streets.

"In our community, school is a place where they get to go and see their friends, have a good meal, and then have a safe space," Colebrook said. "School is that safe space for kids from August until June. From June until the end of July and when school starts back up in August, there is a gap.

"It's important particularly for kids in Goldsboro where opportunities are hard to come by."

However, Colebrook worries that people within the community are not always taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them through summer programs such as Project YESS. Summer feeding programs and free teeth cleaning are just a few opportunities that received low attendance from the community over the years.

"I want the community to do a better job at taking advantage of all the opportunities we have out here," Colebrook said. "The community (needs) to take advantage of the opportunities because if they don't, then those opportunities will go away."