After-school program partners with LCCC to teach teens creativity through technology

For I’sis Drummond, being exposed to art through Elyria Teens Achieve Success (ETAS) and LCCC’s STEAM Makers Academy has broadened her perspective on life, and on herself.

“I have learned a lot about myself,” says Drummond, a 2018 graduate of Elyria High School. “I’ve learned I’m capable of learning beyond what is taught in general education. Art has changed my perspective and given me a wider range of ways to think about things.”

The partnership between the organizations creates a place where arts and technology commingle to broaden Lorain County students’ ideas and give them the tools to express them. Teens get lessons in leadership, learn about career options and get guidance and support to help them realize the best version of themselves.

ETAS Executive Director Lisa Gonzalez Bramhall says it made perfect sense for her program to collaborate with the STEAM Makers Academy.

“Our mission is to improve literacy, promote academic excellence and cultivate leadership in at-risk youth,” she says. “Literacy and the arts go hand in hand. All of the components of the STEAM Makers Academy are in alignment with our mission.”

Although Drummond was at first reluctant to get involved, she decided to give it a try.

“People were really nice, and it gave me something to do after school,” she says. “I wasn’t involved in anything negative, but a lot of kids don’t end up doing positive things, and this steers me the right way.”

 

A second home

Summer and after-school programs through ETAS target underserved and at-risk Elyria high school students with programming that includes academic assistance and career and college preparation. Students get meals, do homework and play sports. And for students like Drummond, the ETAS program provides an introduction to the STEAM Makers Academy, which uses open-ended arts and innovative experiences to build critical thinking and making skills.

“The STEAM Academy has given me a better understanding of what to expect in the world,” Drummond says. “It’s encouraged me to keep on pushing toward my goals and never give up. Wherever you come from, you can be great.”

LCCC’s Campana Center for Ideation and Invention, which houses the STEAM program, is designed to shape the next-generation manufacturing workforce.

“We want to empower students with skills and self-confidence so they are ready to participate in the 21st century workforce and look toward a future with a high-paying job,” says Joan Perch, program and outreach coordinator for the Campana Center.

The Fab Lab at the Campana Center allows students in the STEAM Makers Academy to experiment and become familiar with new art techniques, and learn digital fabrication technologies such as laser cutters, vinyl cutters and 3-D printers.

“All of our STEAM programs start with the arts, introducing teens to tools and technologies for expressing themselves that they might not have known about,” says Perch. “The students become comfortable with creating and making with the equipment, the Fab Lab and Campana Center environment. And just as the ETAS program has, the college soon becomes a second home for them, too.”

Setting an example

Participation in ETAS and the STEAM Makers Academy has brought out Drummond’s natural tendency to help others.

“The first week ETAS students came in, it was new to everybody,” Perch says. “When they got into the Fab Lab, I’sis stepped right in and started helping everybody. They listened to her because they respected her. She got the students focused and on track.”

Now Drummond works 25 hours per week as a student apprentice, helping others navigate the equipment. One of those she’s influenced is Tatum Powers, an Elyria High School senior.

“It’s easy to work with her because she’s my age,” Powers says. “It’s not like a teacher giving me instructions; it’s more like she’s just helping me.”

Powers, who plans to enlist in the Air Force, programmed a laser cutter to create a mandala — a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism. The teen, who customizes shoes using an airbrush, says his exposure to the equipment has opened up other ways to express himself through art.

“Instead of just using shoes to express my creativity, I know I can use anything I want,” he says. “There’s a lot more technology involved than people think.”

Beyond setting students up for a career, together ETAS and the STEAM Makers Academy offer a place where teens feel they belong, where their minds are opened to new ideas that can lead to a better understanding of themselves.

“If a student graduates from high school, by some standards I can say we did a good job. But frankly, that’s not good enough,” Bramhall says. “I want to see them move forward, find a career path, pursue their dreams and interests, and make sure they’re plugged into the next phase of their life, whatever that may be — college, a trade, the military. It’s important to make sure they’re connected and transitioning to adulthood with a life plan and goals they are moving toward.”

Today, Drummond is a freshman majoring in biology at LCCC as she pursues a career in pediatrics. She says her post-secondary ambitions were facilitated by ETAS and STEAM Makers.

“They helped me connect with college by giving me the moral support to further my education and taught me new ways to think and make my ideas come to life using fabrication and art skills,” she says.

“The STEAM Academy has given me a better understanding of what to expect in the world. It’s encouraged me to keep on pushing toward my goals and never give up.”
I’sis Drummond