VIRGINIA BEACH - I just want you to know that you are really special,is a linein Pharrell Williams 2004 Grammy nominated song. While the song is about a beautiful girl, those same words hold true for 200 children from Virginia Beachare enrolled in Pharrell's summer program called Summer Camp Innovation.
It is apartnership involvingcosmetics giant Revlon, NASA, Virginia BeachPublic Schools and the Virginia Beach Department of Parks and Recreation. Housed at Betti F. Williams Elementary School, thefreesix- week program skipsthe three R's and divesinto the tough subjectsofscience, technology, engineering and math.
STEM is a hot topic in the education field as the nation'steens have fallen far behind 34 other developed countries inscience and math. But, Williamshas added art and motivation to the program which has been dubbed STEAMM.
In a recent interview from Miami, Pharrell said he is convinced another kid from Virginia Beach will come along and eclipse his success. 'Imagine the kid who thought about the microwave, imagine the kid who thought that they were going to produce holograms. Those are things that were probably laughed at...but now they are everyday reality,' said Williams.
Williams is giving the children to the tools to succeed in the workforce of the future. A recent report from the Brookings Institution showsin largemetropolitain areas 30 percent of thejobs openings are in STEMfields but only 11 percent of the population hasSTEMdegrees.
Inone campclassroom the lesson of the day was called heavy lifting. It's a hands on lesson about mass and weight. Down the hall another group of teens made paper airplanes in a lessonon the principles of flight. In yet a third class, teens were learning how to edit video that will be used in a public service announcement.
Williams says InnovationCamp is not a perfect program, but it augments the curriculum of Virginia Beach public schools. In addition Williams hopes the program will provide academic continuityduring the summner. Says Williams,'Just being encouraged and coming back over the summer with better retentionskills..that's a huge milestone.'
Camp Innovationis a product of Williams' CharitableFoundationnamed FromOne Hand to Another www.fohta.org.Former Virginia Beach City Councilwoman Louisa Strayhorn is Executive Director of FOHAT, andWilliams' mother Dr. Carolyn Williams is Chairman of the Board for the non-profit organization.