Eighteen students from four Southside Virginia public school districts are benefiting from a unique public-private partnership around summer enrichment in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics).

The students are participating in the inaugural Summer STEAM Health Lab, being held on the campus of Kenston Forest School. The camp runs from July 9th through the 27th and encompasses fifteen days of instruction.

The students, rising 6th graders, were selected by school leaders in Cumberland, Nottoway, Mecklenburg and Prince Edward counties, based on their interest in STEM disciplines, specifically Health Sciences.

The four participating public school divisions worked with Kenston Forest School and Longwood University to develop the STEAM Health Lab concept. Pitsco Education, a national leader in STEAM curriculum design, provided the curriculum and faculty training.

The Summer STEAM Health Lab grew out of a broader planning collaboration around building a “Culture of Health” in Farmville, Prince Edward and surrounding Southside counties. Richmond-based MB2 Solutions, a domestic public policy strategy firm, and STEPS, Inc., the designated community action agency for a 6-county region of Southside, are core project partners.

Centra Health’s Community Benefit Committee contributed funding for the project, enabling students to participate on full scholarship. Additional in-kind support is being provided by Kenston Forest School, Longwood University and Pitsco Education. Participating public school divisions provide transportation for their students.

Kenston Forest School STEM teachers, Melinda Walker and Connie Hicks, are leading the students in hands-on, project-based learning in diverse areas of anatomy and physiology, human health and nutrition, ecology and the environment. These STEAM subjects strongly correlate to high-value, 21st century careers. Kenston Forest athletic coaching staff lead the students in exercise and sports programs designed to support the camp’s goals of improving fitness, personal health and health education.

Additionally, students have opportunity to learn outside the classroom, through visits to Centra Southside Community Hospital (CSCH) and the Edward I. Gordon Clinical Simulation Learning Center (CSLC) on Longwood’s campus. Students will spend two days at CSCH, performing lab experiments and learning from hospital educators and medical staff. They will have opportunity to tour the CSLC with Longwood Nursing faculty and participate in hands-on learning activities. Longwood is also sponsoring an undergraduate camp counselor to assist the Kenston teachers.

E.W. Tibbs, President and CEO of Centra, commented, “We’re pleased to be able to support this unique public-private partnership in summer STEM enrichment. This provides young people in our region with an opportunity to explore STEM fields and learn about careers in health care and health services.”

Sharon Harrup, President and CEO of STEPS, Inc., and a member of the Centra Health Board of Directors, stated: “As the leader of a regional nonprofit with pillars of service in Workforce Development and Education, it’s a privilege to be a part of an initiative that provides students in our region with an opportunity to connect their work in the classroom with careers in health care and health sciences.”

MB2 Solutions Principal Marland Buckner said, “We’re delighted to see this collaboration taking root in Southside, and look forward to seeing primary, secondary and higher education partners take the summer STEAM Health Lab to great heights in the years to come.”

Kenston Forest School Headmaster Paul Zanowski sees the program as essential to the region’s future success. “STEM and STEM Health education will produce a new generation of highly skilled, creative, entrepreneurial workers and leaders, commented Zanowski. “They will attract and start new businesses that will generate high-paying jobs and a bright future for our community. Kenston Forest, a private school with a public purpose, is honored to support this vital program.”