A grant provided by The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation will give college students in seven West Virginia counties the opportunity to educate and mentor youths this summer through the West Virginia University Extension Service STEM Ambassador program.

The $78,000 renewed grant will help to fund the STEM Ambassador program, which allows students majoring in science-related fields to help youths learn science, technology, engineering and math concepts through hands-on, kid-friendly activities.

STEM participants explore activities that introduce a wide range of STEM-focused fields and careers. One student from each of the six counties in the Greater Kanawha Valley region will also be chosen to attend the WVU Extension STEM Camp in July. During the event, campers can visit the WVU Planetarium, the WVU zip line canopy tour and WVU research labs while taking part in hands-on experiments such as ice cream making, LEGO robotics and more.

“STEM participants work in teams to find unique and creative solutions to real-world problems through exciting and engaging activities,” said Jen Robertson-Honecker, WVU Extension Service STEM specialist. “The STEM Ambassador program allows us to deliver this education through college students who are closer to them in age—our youths truly look up to these Ambassadors and become more aware of the potential for higher education in their future.”

WVU Extension Service offices in Boone, Clay, Fayette, Kanawha, Lincoln and Putnam counties are working with local organizations such as libraries, summer youth programs, schools, out-of-school-time providers and community centers to collaborate and coordinate in order to serve the program to as many youths as possible. Due to last year’s success, this year’s program will be expanding to an additional site in Cabell County, funded separately by the West Virginia American Water Association.

The STEM Ambassador program isn’t limited to those counties, though. An additional 15 ambassadors will be working statewide to educate youths — both in science and the importance of higher education.

In addition to increased programming, the donation ensures scholarships for some youths to attend regional and state level STEM events, including one on WVU’s main campus near the end of July.

This year’s program will see the addition of three one-year AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers to ensure the program’s success.

The grant was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University.