Community Transformation Project Helps Youngsters Gather Steam

I recently had the privilege of touring the Community Transformation Center with Vickie Webb.  Webb is the founder and director of this free program designed to connect K-12 students with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) concepts.  It brings school-aged children in for an afternoon of learning, where they might explore Beginning Robotics and Advanced Robotics, Science Projects, Coding, 3D Printing, Youth Business Development, Wearable Lab, Videography and editing in the One Button Lab, Drone Piloting, Virtual Reality, Digital Design, Sign Language, Parent Activities, Perler Beading and more.  The program is free and snacks are provided.

Webb started out at Beckley Stratton Middle School as coordinator of the school’s 21st-Century Community Learning Center, where she worked with after-school programs for four years.

Partnering with the Muster Project, Webb started in December of 2015 in the basement of a small church in the East Beckley Area with two instructors and had an average of 10 students that did a ‘We Do Robotics’ class sponsored by NASA SEMAA (Science, Engineering, Math, Aerospace Academy). NASA SEMAA partnered with Webb and provided laptops and robotic kits that she borrowed from them. Webb also had a sign language class for the students and provided them with snacks every other Saturday through April.

“Our goal is to have youth engaged in positive and productive activities that will make a difference in their life and future”,  says Webb.  “I’m an advocate of afterschool programs because I know they work. The extra time and attention makes a big difference for these kids. When you can provide that extra attention in a fun and creative atmosphere, it makes the students want to be here and to learn more,” she said.

“We partner and collaborate with everyone we can. The West Virginia afterschool network in Charleston sent us 28 We Do kits to use through the end of the school year. NASA SEMAA lets us borrow stuff for programming. The superintendents of schools were here and offered to help us however they can,” said Webb.

United Bank set-up a banking station so that the students could learn about banking, money handling and credit. Students have learned about sign language and urban gardening. Next year they’ll work on 3D printing prosthetic limbs for children who can’t afford expensive equipment. For that project, Webb hopes to work with WVU Tech engineering students.

“This is a real community project that we couldn’t do without support from those around us.”

Webb said, “This is a perfect training spot to build those kinds of real-life skills that students can use when they get out into their careers. There are opportunities here to stay in West Virginia and be in a field you love,” she said.

This past school year, sixty students were enrolled in the program ranging in age from 5 to 17 years of age. The grade range covered Pre-Kindergarten to 12th grade. Age 11 was the highest age bracket and age 12 was the second highest age group. A total of eleven Raleigh County elementary schools participated including  Beckley, Bradley, Cranberry, Crescent, Hollywood, Mabscott, Maxwell Hill, Hollywood, Stanaford, Crab Orchard and Fairdale.  There was participation from two middle schools including Beckley-Stratton and Park.  Four high schools participated: Woodrow Wilson, Independence, Shady Spring and Hinton.

United Way of Southern West Virginia is proud to share this story about the amazing work of Ms. Webb and all of the community members that participated to bring valuable child enriching after school opportunities to our youth.  This is a wonderful example of the work that makes a difference in our community!