Summer Bridge inspires STEM education for high school girls


Kelsey McGee, left, and Diana Mendoza with President Kyle after the Summer Bridge dinner at the Radford Norwood Room.

High school girls participating in Radford University's Summer Bridge 2013 program celebrated with a banquet Thursday night in downtown Radford. They were concluding a week in RU’s classrooms and laboratories learning the skills necessary to build a Mars rover and gaining knowledge into skillfully combating hackers and analyzing crime scenes.

Summer Bridge, hosted annually by Radford University's College of Science and Technology,  is a week-long residential experience for rising sophomore, junior and senior high school girls interested in science, technology and mathematics (STEM). This year's program began Sunday, July 7 and concluded Friday, July 12. Radford University President Penelope W. Kyle delivered the keynote address at the banquet.

The 78 participants in this year’s Summer Bridge program hailed mostly from Virginia with a few from Florida, Maryland and North Carolina. The girls had the unique opportunity to work on field experiments with Radford University professors in such subjects as space exploration, environmental science, forensic science, and the biology and chemistry applications of medicine.

Many classes for the week were taught by female faculty members who served as mentors to the girls. Among those teaching was Donna Boyd, eminent professor of anthropological sciences, who in 2006 was honored as U.S. Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Cecilia Fox, a rising high school senior from Albemarle County with tons of curiosity and interests in such STEM fields as "biology, psychology, forensics, anthropology, neurology and maybe a little criminalistics," attended Summer Bridge and was elated to work and learn with Boyd and her husband Cliff Boyd, who are co-directors of RU's Forensic Science Institute and taught a forensic anthropology class at Summer Bridge.


Sam Minner, Orion Rogers, President Kyle, Julie Kern (Wells Fargo), Dreama Wade (Radford Office of Wells Fargo), and participant Samantha Cunningham.

"Oh, wow. It was so fascinating," Fox gushed after the banquet. "I absolutely loved my forensic anthropology class. It was just a blast meeting with the famous Boyds. They're like role models to me. When I met them, I was like 'oh my gosh, I'm totally a fan of you.'"

In addition to classroom lectures and lab experiments, Summer Bridge students visited RU's Planetarium and Museum of the Earth Sciences and were treated to Chemistry Professor Francis Webster's "Magic of Chemistry" show. Students also made field trips to Mountain Lake in Giles County, the RU Selu Conservancy and to Areva and Novozymes facilities.

Leading to her keynote address, Kyle was introduced by College of Science and Technology Dean Orion Rogers, who highlighted the president's many successes and achievements, and referred to her as "a role model" who "shatters glass ceilings."

Addressing the gathering, Kyle told the young students she hopes Summer Bridge at RU will serve as a watershed moment in their lives.

"You are at the perfect point to decide if you're going to be one of these young women who creates and seeks your own opportunities," Kyle said. "I hope, whether it's a year from now, two years from now or 10 years from now, you look back on this week at Radford University and you say 'that was it. That was when that thought was planted in my mind. That was when I got there with all those other young women and realized I could compete with them in the STEM disciplines.'"

Kyle, who spoke about her career path and the lack of encouragement for young girls to pursue STEM studies and careers when she was in high school and college, made a standing offer to provide advice to the Summer Bridge girls.

"I would love to be able to serve you in any fashion that might arise in the future, whether it is in a mentor program, simple advice or answering 'what would you do?' Kyle said. "I would be delighted to have those conversations with you young women."

Sponsors provide money to the Summer Bridge program each year for scholarships, without which many students would be unable to attend. At Thursday's banquet, Wells Fargo representatives presented a $5,000 check to RU to be used for Summer Bridge scholarships. Additional Summer Bridge program sponsors include Dominion Resources, ATK, Areva, Lynchburg Community Trust, Novozymes Biologicals, The Pentair Foundation - Aspen Motion Technologies, Project Discovery of Virginia and RU alumna Dale Lee.

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Jul 15, 2013
Chad Osborne
(540) 831-7769