Forsyth Tech camp inspires pipeline for underrepresented minorities in STEM

It was during a presentation by Kristen Nicholson, a biomechanist and assistant professor at Wake Forest School of Medicine, that Waynon Graham’s face lit up. You could practically hear the light bulb click on in his mind.

As a rising first-year student at Forsyth Technical Community College (FTCC), Graham planned to study computer science due to his love of video games. Through Nicholson’s presentation, he’d realized the connection between motion capture used in video game creation and biomechanics.

“Out of all the people that gave speeches, this is the one that resonated with me the most,” he said, even following up with Nicholson to discuss career pathways in the field like product development for running shoes or injury prevention for athletes.
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Rockets to the Rescue

STEM Prep Summer Program People

STEM Prep Summer Program
The culmination of the Forsyth Tech Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Prep Summer Program was the Rocket Launch on Friday, Aug. 9. Four teams of four to five students competed in launching an air-powered cardboard rocket, using mathematical analyses of weight, force, thrust and aerodynamic forces.

“This week-long experience from Aug. 5-9 in STEM not only touched on a foundation of academic concepts for rocket building, but also gave 19 students opportunities to build relationships & visit STEM field industries in downtown Winston-Salem,” said STEM advisor/navigator Tandeka Boko.

The National Science Foundation along with the Forsyth Tech Foundation, provided support for this program for student populations defined as historically under-represented in STEM disciplines (URM STEM students). These include the following students: African-Americans, Alaskan Natives, American Indians, Hispanic Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Native Pacific Islanders. Participants included a majority of 11th and 12th grade high school students, along with one 10th grader and a few current STEM community college students.

Participants had a myriad of STEM experiences, including data analyses, microscopic analysis of Pond Water Biology Lab, coding in Python Technology Lab, introduction to Cybersecurity, performing Enzyme Catalysis experiments in Chemistry Lab, demonstration of Chromatography concepts and analysis technologies, and Science Skills Lab Measuring Techniques including pipetting.

Students also took a tour of the Biotech Lab of Forsyth Tech at Innovation Quarter, a tour of Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine, and had conversations with the Dean of College of Arts, Sciences, Business and Education at Winston-Salem State University, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center Professor of Orthopedic Surgery and post-graduate students about applications of Math, Physics, Engineering, and Technology. Students also met and received information from Forsyth Tech’s Dean of the Center for Transformative Learning, Education Support Services and Equity, a Program Staff Assistant of Educational Partnerships and Community Engagement and, the Student Engagement Coordinator of Honor Societies.

The Rockinairs Company, the White team, won the bid for the purchase of their rocket. On day three, this team adjusted the weight and variables of their rocket and their rocket performance improved the most from the first launch of 19 feet to 90 feet (overshot of the 75-foot target) and then 77 feet, almost at the target. On Friday, this team hit the target on their first attempt! They worked together and made necessary adjustments for a successful launch. Members of the Rockinairs Company said the week was an “eye-opening, new experience.” One member also said, “I want to get a Master’s in those two Ps, Pharmacology and Physiology, so that I can work on muscle conditions.”

The Rocket Company, the Green team, won the award for the best sales pitch presentation. This team related their rocket to various math and physics concepts. Their presentation was precise with the variables in the launch. They worked together as a team in their presentation with each member contributing.

One of the members of STML, Inc, the Orange Team, said, “I have had a wonderful and refreshing experience. I have learned a great deal about STEM fields as well as Biomedical Engineering. Taking a tour through the Innovation Quarter gave me a broader concept of the kind work that can take place within STEM fields. I may very well consider Biomedical Engineering as my collegiate course of study.”
One member of the Cincos Company, the Pink Team, said, “I now know what I want to do. I want to get an MD-PhD.” Other members wrote the following, in their “Night Work” reflections, “I learned that even though you may have one milliliter in one graduated cylinder, that doesn’t mean it is exactly one milliliter in the pip-pet.” “Today in STEM Prep, I learned how to test for proteins and glucose in a urinalysis. If I were to become a scientist, I would definitely have to use it.”

STEM Prep staff included Math Coaches, Jeanie Clark, Matthew Reader, Dr. Gary Byrd and Dexter Morgan. Volunteer staff included STEM Student and FT Student Ambassador, Zabed Muriuki and STEM Fellow, Harmony Valiente. There was a great deal of preparatory support provided by the following Math, Science and Technology (MST) and, Business and Information Technologies (BIT) Division faculty and lab technicians: Ben Novak, Dr. Lucien Houenou, Thomas Brown, Samuel Dorsett, Dr. Jason Gagliano, Dr. Travis Russel, Rebecca Ober, Kelly Sassin and Dr. William Clodfelter.

Carol Wall-Brown, mother of participant Jackson Brown said, “The benefit of this program is that often under-represented minority students don’t have a clue there is a whole ocean of STEM opportunities for them. I appreciated this program offered to high school and community college students and hope this will be held again.”

Other comments from parent surveys included the following:

“I was thrilled at the excitement my son showed when I would pick him up and ask about his day and what he did and learned.”

“My son was exposed to different aspects of science and technology. He is excited about looking into a career whereby he can explore science, math and sports.”

“What I liked most about this program was the opportunity that you gave my child to have this experience. Our children need more exposure to programs like this. They really don’t know about these opportunities or these majors. Also, it gave my child the opportunity to see and meet kids that looked like him that are performing at a high level in school. Thanks for all that you do for our kids.”

Kids Jumping
Students in classroom

Expanding Perspectives Beyond the Classroom

Group with volunteers Picture

Global Leadership Experience.
Forsyth Technical Community College partnered with Kernersville Cares for Kids (KCK) to hold the first Global Leadership Experience, August 5th – 7th at the Grady P. Swisher Center in Kernersville. Nineteen middle school students were chosen for their leadership skills to participate in the conference. They learned about career mapping, business, entrepreneurial and leadership skills.

A rising 8th grade student from East Forsyth Middle School, Ian, said, “The camp was very fulfilling and helped me develop skills to start my own business.” Ian said his favorite part of the camp was the field trip to Salem One, a packaging, print, direct marketing and logistics company in Winston-Salem. The students observed a business operation in action using some of the same lessons they were learning in class.

Twins in the class, Corinne and Carmen, rising 7th grade students also from East Forsyth Middle School said, “The best part of the camp was making new friends from other schools and learning how we can start our own custom design shoe business.”
A volunteer with the camp, Deborah Sutton, who is an adjunct instructor and a KCK coach at Glenn High School said, “I’m usually with older students, so teaching middle school students is fun, they are happy go lucky and ask a million questions.”
Alicia Cone, a KCK coach at East Forsyth Middle School and camp volunteer, said her experience taught her some new things as well. “The students had great creative ideas, they all want to be entrepreneurs! Plus, they gained leadership skills that they can take back and apply in their schools.”

Coordinated by L. Renee Jessup Rogers, department chair, Accounting and Business Administration, and retired department chair, Deana Ray, the camp inspired students to expand their ideas from a local viewpoint to a global perspective.

“I’m teaching the very same material that I use in my adult classes at Forsyth Tech. I just modify it so it is applicable to the KCK leaders. I know they are comprehending the information because they are paying attention and asking good questions,” said Rogers. “We had great support this year from the parents, the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School System, Junior Achievement, Truliant, Cakes and All Things Yummy, the Forsyth Tech Foundation, Allan Younger, Forsyth Tech Small Business Center and Insight Human Services. We hope we will get the resources to hold this again next year.”

The conference was free to students in the KCK program who had to apply and write an essay on leadership. KCK is a joint partnership between local business owners, town officials, non-profit agencies, the Kernersville Police Department, school administration and concerned private citizens to help youth in the community be successful and live healthy, happy and drug-free lives.

Ian PictureCorinne and Carmen Picture
Students in classroom

Childcare Is an Advantage for Forsyth Tech Employees

Kesa Jessup Picture

“Having childcare where you work is an immense convenience factor”, said Kesa Jessup, Student Retention Manager at Forsyth Tech. Her daughter, Kalli, started at the Carol L. Danforth Early Childhood Lab School when she was 3 ½ years old.

“She had been going to ‘Grandmother’s Camp’ up until that time,” Kesa said. “Then, it was time for her to learn to play with other kids.”

As an only child, Kalli had more occasions to interact with adults than with other children so as Kesa described, “she was not a shrinking violet!” Even though full of confidence when she started, Kalli learned more about how to engage with people closer to her age. Now as one of the older children, she has her chance to show the younger children how to relate to others.
Kalli, now 5 years old, completed kindergarten this past spring and is spending her second summer at the lab school. She knew her alphabet, colors and numbers before she went to kindergarten. She continues learning throughout the summer, getting individualized attention from the staff. The staff observe how children learn and connect with each other.

“The family atmosphere at the lab school is one of the reasons I like having Kalli here,” Kesa said. “I can hear her from my office! The staff knows Kalli and gives me great feedback about her learning and playing.”

Kesa notes that Kalli flourishes at the center, not only in her learning skills but in her artistic initiative in painting, singing and dancing.

“She loves to play dress up and pretend she is Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony or one of the Disney Descendants,” Kesa said. “She assigns who I’m supposed to be when we are playing. She’s a bundle of energy and I’m confident she’s happy here.”

For more information on the childcare grants or to get an application, go to

Grants Help Ease Burden of Childcare Costs for Student-Parents

Amanda James Picture

Childcare is expensive, especially if you are going back to school. At Forsyth Tech, there is a solution. Under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, eligible student-parents at Forsyth Technical Community College may receive up to 70 percent reimbursement at a licensed center. Forsyth Tech received the grant last year as part of the Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program (CCAMPIS).

Students who need care for children ages 3-5 years may use grant stipends at the Carol L. Danforth Early Childhood Lab School on Forsyth Tech’s main campus. Students who need care for children ages 0 to 2 years may use stipends at licensed centers approved by the Lab School.
Amanda James started back to school at Forsyth Tech in August 2018. “When I heard about the grant in SOAR (Success through Orientation, Advising and Registration), I looked into it right away,” James said. “The grant helped me tremendously. It paid for childcare and enabled me to fulfill my educational dreams of going back to school.”

James said her daughter, Amira, loves the lab school. She’s out of school for the summer but asks to come to childcare every day. Amira smiles all the time she’s interacting with childcare providers.
“I’m also very impressed with the variety of the educational programs at the lab school.” Amira gets one-on-one attention and instruction at the lab school which makes James comfortable knowing her child is getting quality education. The Carol L. Danforth Early Childhood Lab School is a licensed five-star childcare facility. Plus, she feels the staff welcomes her whenever she wants to stop by and see her daughter.

James is studying human resources and ultimately would like to continue her education at Winston-Salem State University for a degree in social work, specifically working with children.
For more information on the childcare grants or to get an application, go to