July brings the return of excellent STEPS for Girls program

July brings a special group to UW-Stout, campers who participate in the weeklong Science, Technology and Engineering Preview Summer Camp (STEPS) for Girls. The camp is held for four consecutive weeks, with new middle-schoolers arriving each Sunday and leaving on Thursday.

This is the 21st year of the camp, and it will always hold a warm place in my heart because both of my daughters attended. Each of them, I am proud to say, went on to graduate in a science or engineering field, so the camp influenced their career choices.

In fact, precamp and postcamp surveys consistently show that camp participants have a greater awareness of the importance of science and technology in everyday life and are more likely to major in a STEM field.

STEPS for Girls

One of the great things about the camp is our ability to offer partial or complete scholarships to ensure that girls who really want to attend the camp are able to, even if they come from a disadvantaged background. In 2016, for example, industrial or private scholarship sponsors supported 54 campers out of the total enrollment of 161.

Since the camp began, some 3,000 girls have attended. STEPS also benefits from alumni returning to work as counselors. Both of my daughters came back as counselors. At present our camp director, technical director and head counselor are STEPS alumni.


Because more than 70 percent of the cost of the camp is covered by donations, I want to thank our Family sponsors ($15,000 or more): 3M Corp., our Stout University Foundation and the Hampton Family Trust; our Champion sponsors ($5,000 to $14,999): Xcel Energy and Polaris; and other sponsors, who can be found on the STEPS website.


A great partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs of the Greater Chippewa Valley

I really enjoy getting out in the community and learning more about some of our partnerships that are pivotal for Menomonie and Dunn County. Recently, Mike Wollman and Mary Hopkins-Best gave me a tour of River Heights elementary school to see how the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Greater Chippewa Valley are integrated there. Mary is on the Boys and Girls Clubs board, and Mike is its director.

The clubs provide high-impact programming that give young students opportunities in three core areas: academic success; good character and citizenship; and healthy lifestyles. The clubs fill the gap between school and home by providing welcoming, positive environments in which kids have fun, participate in life-changing programs and build supportive relationships with peers and adults. In these times, students come from a spectrum of family situations and backgrounds, and the clubs are an important resource for them. On an annual basis in Menomonie, 165 youth are served by the program and have been provided more than 8,000 meals and snacks outside of school hours. Participants have lower school absence rates and higher academic success.

Boys & Girls Club

While touring the program, I was pleased to learn that many UW-Stout students assist these youth as workers or interns over the summer, including Lacey Sikora, Morgan Reichardt, Josh Gilland, Harly Van Brunt, Victoria Librande, Queen Harris, Jay Alston, Keith Bolden, Olivia Revolinski, Jon Mortenson, Katelyn Bird and Chris Reardon. Tyler Ball, a second-year applied science student, also was on hand demonstrating the chemistry and physics associated with dry ice.

 This is a partnership that brings value to all involved. For more information regarding this program or to sponsor the club’s activities, contact Mike Wollman at mwollman@cvclubs.org or visit the club’s website.