This summer, for the third year South Arkansas Community College hosted the Verizon Innovative Learning camp for middle-school students, which focuses on cutting-edge computer technology skills.
A familiar face, 15-year-old Cerenity Brant of El Dorado, was there to assist.
Brant went through the camp herself in 2019, and this year was brought back through the grant's provision for hiring high school and college mentors.
"When I started the camp, I thought it was going to be fun since I was already interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics," said Brant, who will be a high-school sophomore this fall. "I remember making friends and having a lot of fun. I learned a lot, especially three-dimensional printing."
Carrying that knowledge forward into this year's camp, Brant was a valuable member of the staff, according to camp director Irene Porchia.
"When selecting our high-school mentor, I wanted to choose someone who had been through the program, and for whom the program had made a difference in how she visualize STEM subjects in school and even in her future," Porchia said. "Cerenity's understanding of how the camp benefited her was her motivation to pour that into the new camp participants. Her knowledge of the expectations, equipment and importance of student participation is what helped her be a great asset to the camp. She could identify with the students, and made less work for the instructors--specifically new teachers to the program."
Brant's career goal isn't strictly in a technology field, but one that, increasingly, utilizes technology: veterinary science. Encouraging new generations to think of new ways to implement technology is one of the purposes of the program.
"I wanted to show the kids that STEM is more than just computers," Brant said. "Girls should join the program because they will have a lot of fun, and will see that STEM has more of a meaning to it."
The VIL program continues throughout the school year, meeting one Saturday a month.