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College partners with BDPA to host non-profit Computer Camp

By: Andrew Mees, Director of College and Athletics Communications                          communications@bloomfield.edu

Bloomfield College is doing its part to help reverse a declining trend in technological education by teaching young adults the far-reaching powers of computer science.

The four-year, private institution has partnered with Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA) to give minority middle school and high school students the chance to expand their knowledge in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines through the Student Information Technology Education and Scholarship (SITES) Program, held on the College’s 11-acre campus each Saturday.

Bloomfield’s Computer Information Systems department has taken on the role of sponsor for the program, helping to staff the weekly lessons with current undergraduate C.I.S. students who serve as peer mentors for their younger pupils through a College-approved service-learning project.

"This initiative is an excellent example of bringing our respective missions to reality," Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Marion Terenzio said. "If higher education is to continue our serious work of providing quality educational opportunities to all, we must continue to engage with our community and professional partners to extend our work beyond our traditional educational borders."

African-Americans currently comprise just three percent of all American scientists and engineers, with Hispanics making up just four percent of the total. The trend is also felt among minority women, with one out of every 10 STEM professionals fitting the demographic. Founded in 1975 and currently the largest African-American Information Technology association in the U.S., the BDPA developed SITES as a way to help change the dynamic.

“We wanted to partner with a local college that had a good reputation and was central to where our students lived, and Bloomfield College certainly fit that bill,” BDPA Immediate Past-President and program co-coordinator Coram Rimes said of the decision to join forces with the institution. “We are so grateful to the College for opening up their wonderful facilities, and to instructors Kyle Rivers and Mike Williams for donating their time and making this endeavor a success.”

Dubbed the Bloomfield College Computer Camp, the weekly program welcomes students from 24 New Jersey schools and provides instruction in areas such as web development, application development, and database design and development. Beginning during the spring semester, the curriculum’s first cohort completed the free program on May 17.

“I am privileged to be a part of this program,” Rivers, Bloomfield’s Webmaster and the program’s volunteer co-instructor said of the non-profit initiative. “This program is a great way to introduce younger students to these fields at an earlier age, and teach them the skills necessary to become people who can make an impact and help reverse this trend.”

Bloomfield students are also mentored by STEM professionals in bi-weekly sessions as part of the program, helping to provide sound career and personal advice for up-and-coming undergrads. The result is a collaborative, nurturing environment where young adults can sharpen their technological skills while developing personal bonds with their instructors, all while preparing for college coursework in STEM divisions.

“I wanted our students to have the opportunity to be mentors and be mentored themselves, because nearly all of us have benefited from the hard work of dedicated teachers,” College C.I.S. professor Steve Kreutzer said. “I expected that my students would benefit by reinforcing the knowledge that they gained from their coursework, but the unexpected benefit has been that the younger students have challenged and inspired their mentors. They are all remarkably talented, which raises the bar for everyone involved.“

The program’s top-performing students will form a team that will participate in the annual High School Computer Competition (HSCC), featuring the brightest from BDPA chapters around the country in a two-day contest beginning June 14 at Bowie State University in Bowie, Md. Though several students will move on to compete at the organization’s highest levels, the goal of the program is to introduce students to computer science at a younger age – a goal Kreutzer feels is steadily being achieved.

“Many young students love computer science; we must do everything we can to support their passion for learning,” he said. “The quality of K-12 computer science education is a well-known national problem, and this is our way of doing our part to ensure we are helping to prepare passionate students for the growing number of technology jobs the world has to offer.” 

For more information on the BDPA and the High School Computer Competition, visit bdpa.org