More than twenty years ago, Dr. Bernard Harris Jr. made history when he stepped out of the space shuttle Discovery and became the first African American to walk in space. On that day, Dr. Harris set a course for youngsters everywhere to follow his example of what people can achieve through dedication, commitment and a thirst for learning.
Today, he continues his trailblazing ways, and ExxonMobil has proudly partnered with Dr. Harris on his Earthly mission – to inspire middle-school students about the possibilities of math and science and where education can take them – if they dare to dream.
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Through the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camps, underserved middle school students across the country received exposure to STEM and a first-hand look at life on a college campus. The two-week, all-expenses paid camps are held at universities across the country.
Supported by the ExxonMobil Foundation, the program celebrated STEM academic excellence and encouraged an out-of-this-world opportunity alongside Dr. Harris. This unique experience also included mentoring from ExxonMobil engineers and scientists, who served as “Rock Stars of STEM” providing real-world connections to classroom instruction and potential careers. Campers also had the opportunity to explore local museums and nature centers − discovering science within their communities. And, they took part in daily interactive, inquiry-based STEM classes taught by university faculty.
Between 2006 and 2017, the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp program reached more than 12,000 underrepresented middle-schoolers, and its impact extended well beyond the camp experience. According to a 2015 Harris Foundation study of camp alumni, 94 percent of graduating high school participants credit the camp for impacting their decision to take STEM related Honors, Pre-AP and/or AP classes in high school, 96 percent planned to go to college and 86 percent planned to pursue a STEM-related career.
Dr. Harris, who is now leading the National Math and Science Initiative, is working with his college partners to develop the next iteration of Summer Science Camps in hopes of inspiring even more future scientists and mathematicians.