LOSFA Programs and partners address digital divide and learning loss through summer camps

Contact Brittany Francis
Public Information and Communications Director 
 (225) 219-3306 Office

Tyana Daquano
Public Information Officer
(225) 342-5173

Office Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA) 

July 31, 2020

LOSFA Programs and partners address digital divide and learning loss through summer camps

Baton Rouge Hundreds of Louisiana students had the opportunity to virtually continue their academic enrichment this summer, through Louisiana’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (Louisiana GEAR UP) summer learning camps. Louisiana GEAR UP is a college access and readiness initiative through the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA), which aims to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education. Louisiana GEAR UP serves 15 school districts around the state; 289 Louisiana GEAR UP students attended the summer learning camps. State funding allowed another 41 students, who are supported by LOSFA’s Field Outreach Services, to participate in a summer camp experience as well. 

This year, Louisiana GEAR UP partnered with four higher education institutions: Louisiana Tech University, Southeastern Louisiana University, Northwestern State University, and Grambling State University, to provide digital learning experiences. 
“We know learning must continue during these difficult times. We applaud the innovation our post-secondary partners demonstrated by developing and enhancing digital instruction that allowed us to continue the learning process with our students, thus keeping them on track to avoid learning loss during the summer,” said Dr. Tireka Cobb, director of LOSFA’s Field Outreach Services and Louisiana GEAR UP. 

These one and two week-long virtual camps were conducted on platforms such as Canvas, Moodle, and Microsoft Teams, and covered everything from virtual ACT test prep, to robotics, cyber-security, and scientific visualization; covering science and liberal arts, and hands-on experiments that could lead to employment in the medical field. 

Students at Louisiana Tech’s Scientific Illustration camp created an animation to discuss medical illustration and visual communication. Click here to see their animation.

Many students were able to take part in the summer learning camps, due to LOSFA’s partners offering hotspots, Chromebooks, and Microsoft Surface GO Devices to students who needed assistance. Learning kits were also supplied, which included materials to complete daily lessons and activities during camp. (Pictured right: Ajin Brown picks up Chromebooks and camp materials for herself and twin brother, NaJe, from Southeastern Louisiana University for the Future Fest camp.)

“Being able to provide Chromebooks to campers [who] needed a device allowed [students] to participate fully when otherwise they would have [had] limited participation or not have been able to participate at all,” said Dr. Wendy Conarro, director of Southeastern Louisiana’s STILE Future Fest camp. During this eight-day camp, students designed their own rollercoaster prototypes, designed, and built a coronavirus face shield, and explored viruses and bacteria and how to stay healthy. 

Dr. Conarro added, “Offering a 100 percent virtual camp allowed us to connect with and serve students across the state.” ( Pictured below: A student attending SLU’s Future Fest camp demonstrates an at-home activity. Students received tools to create a virus and learned how to stay healthy.)

Guidance and interaction through camp activities are what students said they needed during this time.

“My favorite part of the camp was the science activities because they provided us with the technology and the tools to do an at-home project,” said Jamarion Brown, a student at Mentorship S.T.E.A.M Academy in Baton Rouge, who attended Northwestern State’s S.T.E.A.M camp. 

At this camp students used virtual activities to develop and connect their interests in science, technology, engineering, art and math. They also strengthened their math and reading skills aligned with ACT College and Career Readiness Standards. 

Ben LaGrone, director of Northwestern State’s GEAR UP S.T.E.A.M. camps, has partnered with Louisiana GEAR UP offering summer learning camps for the past two years. He says even though this year took more planning, he was most amazed by how quickly connections and relationships developed through a computer screen and microphone. 

“It was great to see campers helping each other, even though many had never met one another before coming to camp this year,” LaGrone said.

For more information on the 2020 Louisiana GEAR UP virtual summer learning camps click here .

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