By Ashley Carl

This summer, Hillsborough Community College will join Verizon Innovative Learning, an education initiative of the Verizon Foundation, to introduce more girls, especially those in rural parts of the country, to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills. 

Launched in partnership with the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE), the two-year program was piloted last summer at five community colleges and will expand to 16 community colleges, engaging over 1,500 students.

Kicking off this summer with a three-week intensive learning experience, 100 girls from local middle schools across Ruskin and Wimauma will attend courses at HCC’s SouthShore Campus in augmented and virtual reality, coding, 3D design, entrepreneurship and design thinking principles free of charge. The students will continue to participate in monthly sessions throughout the academic year where they will develop a technology solution for a community problem that aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Focus areas of the SDGs include poverty reduction, quality education, good health and well-being, climate action, peace and justice or gender equality.

“We are extremely proud to be a part of this vital program benefiting middle school girls in our local community,” said Ryan Buckthorpe, director, HCC Institute for Corporate & Continuing Education. “We will employ the organizational expertise of our successful HCC Kids’ College program, the extensive experience of our entrepreneurship and innovation faculty, and the vast resources and community knowledge of our SouthShore Campus.”

Women continue to be underrepresented in STEM careers, where a staggering 86 percent of engineers and 74 percent of computer professionals are men. The percentage of women in STEM careers has not improved since 2001, specifically within the engineering (12 percent) and computing (26 percent) workforces. As a member organization of more than 300 community colleges across the country, NACCE is dedicated to supporting job creation and entrepreneurs in local communities. 

Verizon Innovative Learning gives free technology, free access and innovative curricula to students impacted by the digital divide to help them realize a brighter future. To date, Verizon has invested $200 million in this initiative and has reached more than one million students.  Learn more at www.VerizonInnovativeLearning.com.

To learn more about this exciting opportunity for middle school girls, please contact HCC Kids’ College at kidscollege@hccfl.edu or by phone at 259-6010.