College tours, engineering, guest lectures and yoga by the beach: those are just some of the activities young women in southeastern Connecticut are enjoying at a free summer program in Norwich. The program is being run by S.T.E.P.S. Inc., which is based in Groton.
"S.T.E.P.S. is a very unique program because it focuses on the whole girl," said Wendy Ladd, assistant director of S.T.E.P.S. "We focus on everything from academic and career, their social needs, financial needs, emotional needs, and physical and spiritual needs."
S.T.E.P.S. stand for "striving towards empowered personal success". The organization has been helping young women since 2008. This year they were awarded an enrichment and innovation grant from the state to offer summer enrichment programming to young women at no cost.
The $150,000 grant allows them to offer four weeks of programming with free transportation and meals. The program is based out of Three Rivers Community College in Norwich. They still have room for more young women, ages 16-19.
One of the program's goals is to help bridge the pandemic learning gap.
“Things weren’t easy for me. My grades slipped," said Sariah Waters, a teen from Groton who is in the summer program. "This does help me get back on track."
Throughout the course of the four weeks, the young women will go on six to eight college tours.
"It is great to see people after spending a whole year in the same place and I am getting to learn a lot that I missed out on last year," said Gabriella Fedus, who lives in Montville.
The summer program has a large focus on STEAM learning.
“Science, technology, engineering, arts and math," explained Ladd.
The teens have met scientists, tried their hands at engineering, made DNA necklaces and, Tuesday, learned from a finance leader.
"I want young girls to know that you can be anything you want to be. You can work in any industry you want to work in," said Ornet Hines, who works at Liberty Bank in Norwich. Hines spoke to the young women Tuesday afternoon.
The students also learn about things outside of the STEAM field.
"I hope they take away that they can do and be anything they want to be," said Ladd. “Their lives are their own to create and dream and with our support they will be doing just that.”