County To Continue STEM Internship Program

SNOW HILL — Federal funding may have been lost for the popular STEP-UP and Reach for the Stars program but Worcester County students will still have a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, (STEM) enrichment program this summer.

Through the Office of Economic Development, a local version of STEP-UP exclusively for Worcester has been created that will “closely mirror” the original program, according to Bill Badger, director of economic development.

The new program will be managed by Fawn and Ryan Mete and will include both a day camp and an internship program, similar to what STEP-UP offered when it had federal funding. There will be three different options for camps, all of which cover two weeks and will include field trips to NASA Wallops Island and a STEM tour visiting related businesses in Worcester. Two of the options would cover about 40 students while the other would only reach 20 but would provide a more in-depth experience. The camp will be for middle school students.

Also included in the new program will be a six-week paid summer internship sponsored by both the county and local businesses. According to Faye Mete, the internships will be a “pipeline for STEM-related businesses in Worcester County” that will allow interested students a chance to use the STEM tools they’re being taught in school in a real world setting.

“It keeps the integrity of the program and it keeps the academic rigor of the program,” Faye Mete said of the new proposal. The internships would be for high school students, she added.

Badger informed the commission that the new idea was drafted with input from Brenda Dingwall, the Worcester County Woman of the Year and the founder of both original programs at Wallops. Badger urged the commissioners to act quickly.

“I can tell you that we’re already late; we should have started in February,” he said. “So there is a sense of urgency that we need to get started sooner versus later if we’re going to have a program this summer for STEP-UP and Reach for the Stars.”

Commissioner Judy Boggs was onboard, saying that if the program is stalled for even one year it would be difficult to get it running again.

“I support this because it is so essential we do not let this important project drop,” she said.

The commission agreed unanimously, and $77,000 that was set aside for STEP-UP before federal funding was lost will be used to cover the program.