The program is a part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s College/Underserved Community Partnership Program (CUPP).
“I think all of us have been thinking about it for a long time,” said Dr. Laura Miller-Purrenhage, professor in the Liberal Studies department at Kettering. “This program has been identified and requested by the community. It’s community-driven, not Kettering-driven.”
Miller-Purrenhage is Kettering’s lead organizer for the program. She’s partnering with Brian Willingham, executive director of Flint PAL. Willingham took over PAL in spring 2016 and is looking to expand the offerings of the program.
“PAL is traditionally a sports-oriented program,” Willingham said. “We want to start looking at opportunities outside of sports including academics, literacy, job training and nutrition. We want to create more holistic development opportunities for inner city youth in Flint.”
The partnership with Kettering will provide academic opportunities for students in fifth to eighth grades to hone and reinforce their mathematics skills. Dr. Leszek Gawarecki, department head of Mathematics at Kettering, will provide instruction for approximately 30 PAL students once a week. The program at Kettering will be run year round. Gawarecki will focus on teaching pre-algebra, geometry and other identified areas of need that evolve during the course of the program.
In addition to the academic learning opportunities, this program will invite PAL students on campus which exposes them to a collegiate atmosphere, enhanced classroom technologies and provides them with access to Kettering faculty and students.
“We believe all of that exposure is going to be a growth opportunity for our students and could spark future engineers from the ranks of our children,” Willingham said.
Kettering students will become mentors and tutors in the program which will further enhance opportunities for PAL students.
This program complements Kettering’s community redevelopment and engagement efforts in Flint. Kettering has been a leader in the redevelopment of the University Avenue Corridor that connects campus to downtown Flint, provided a state-of-the-art work space for area FIRST Robotics teams, and is creating an autonomous proving ground at the former Chevy in the Hole site.
“I hope that we will continue to cement a trusting relationship between Kettering and the community,” Miller-Purrenhage said.
Willingham believes that finding the next star in math and science is no different than finding the next LeBron James on the basketball court. The principles are the same. It’s about connecting talent with hard work and exposure.
“I think there are future doctors and scientists and engineers in this group of students,” Willingham said. “If we don’t expose them to the potential of math and science, they might get left behind. If we expose them – if we ignite a flame in a child – then they have the potential of doing something great.”
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