SAVANNAH, Ga. – Hampton University senior Jermaya Patterson didn’t waste one minute of her summer vacation. Instead of living a life of leisure, she’s given back to her hometown by helping young girls through a program she founded: “Black Girls Do STEM” (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The free program launched June 5 at a YMCA in Savannah, Ga.
“When I ended my junior year, this year, I called my mom and said we have to do this,” Patterson said.
Within weeks, Patterson and her mother had the organization up and running complete with guidelines, an application, and the organization’s new logo.
"Ms. Patterson is a prime example of what we teach here at Hampton University," said Dr. Jermel Watkins, chair of Hampton University's Biological Sciences Department. “She has taken her knowledge from the classroom and used it to impact change. She is an exemplary mentor and role model. Our department couldn't be more proud to call her one of our own."
Patterson would meet with the girls twice a week throughout the summer.
“We started them off with general science including scientific methods and safety rules,” Patterson said. “Then, we dove right in with chemistry, using baking soda and vinegar and blowing up balloons. Later, we moved on to some zoology.”
On the engineering front, Patterson had the kids building miniature bridges and a rain shelter.
Patterson, studying to become a veterinarian, knew the exact career path she wanted to take since 4th grade when she had the opportunity to play with some animals during a science class.
“I wanted to give the girls some type of hands on experience that would allow them to say, ‘when I was in second, third, or fourth grade, I had the opportunity to build bridges and now I know that I want to be a civil engineer’,” she said.
Initially, Patterson admits the girls were not very interested in the science behind making ice cream or building bridges. However, as time went on and the work they did was more “hands-on,” she noticed their interest started to grow.
“A little girl said, ‘you make science fun for me.’ That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. I want science to be fun,” Patterson said. “That is what we are doing.”