Saturday, March 9, 2019 || By Igor Studenkov || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Bellwood teen Camron Brown, far right, works on technology during a March 2 Create a Spark program session at the Art Institute in Chicago. | Courtesy ComEd
Camron Brown, of Bellwood, said he became interested in studying technology because it’s all around us and it “is impacting every aspect of everyday life.” The St. Joseph High School freshman wants to take his passion for technology and achieve something bigger.
Brown was one of around 50 high school freshmen from Chicago and the suburbs taking part in Create a Spark — a collaboration between the electric utility ComEd and Holy Family School Scholars Chicago, which is designed to help students build their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills.
The program’s organizers said that they hope the students will pursue STEM-related careers — perhaps at ComEd.
The Holy Family Scholars program was originally launched to help students from Holy Family Elementary parochial school afford the tuition to attend parochial and private high schools.
The school has since closed, but the scholarship program has broadened its focus to help low-income, high-achieving students get into private schools. Students must have a grade-point average of at least 3.4 and their family’s income can’t be more than $55,000.
Brown that he’s glad the scholarship program exists because it goes a long way toward helping him pay tuition at St. Joe’s. But he’s already looking to life beyond high school.
Students in the Create a Spark program will receive support and mentoring throughout high school, organizers of the program said. | Courtesy ComEd
“I think I want to be a business major [in college],” Brown said. “I always wanted to be a CEO, so I can be responsible for things and have a little authority.”
The Create a Spark program launched in December. Holy Family officials selected the students while ComEd developed the program itself. Students are divided into groups that work on projects addressing power grid-related technological improvements. The top three finalists will get $4,000 in scholarships.
Brown was interviewed during the third session, held March 2 inside of the Art Institute of Chicago’s stately Modern Wing. The sessions are held once a month, except for January, and usually take place at ComEd’s training center in Chicago.
Brown said that he appreciates the support of the program’s mentors — people like Okechukwu Chika, a ComEd program manager and one of the power company employees who developed Create a Spark. He also serves as an instructor and a mentor.
“I help those kids develop ideas,” he said. “We let them make mistakes and learn from their mistakes. I just experience [the process] with them and meet them at their level.”
Chika said that the program is part of ComEd’s broader effort to bolster STEM education in the communities it serves. Chika explained that ComEd will work with the students until they graduate, providing training and support.
“The best way to build the workforce of the future is getting engaged with kids now,” he said.
“Maybe [the students] come to ComEd maybe they don’t, but at least we can give them the skills to be successful in whatever they do.” VFP
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