In January of 2014, Padmanabhan Seshaiyer, Claudette Davis, and Kelly Knight of the George Mason University STEM Accelerator Program and Danielle Craddock, founder of GIRL, Inc, joined together to create Females of Color and those Underrepresented in STEM (F.O.C.U.S.). F.O.C.U.S. is a week-long camp which exposes females to a variety of disciplines within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
The camp is presented in a fun, hands-on, intellectually stimulating format designed to elevate their interests again. The first four days each “F.O.C.U.S.” on a different “letter” of the STEM acronym. On day five, the participants have an opportunity to collaborate with their groups and present one of the topics from the week in a poster session with invited faculty, students, and family. There is also a “Leadership and Entrepreneurship” component to F.O.C.U.S. which gives the students an opportunity to meet successful women who currently work for leading organizations and/or own their own businesses.
In July of 2014, the camp launched with 19 girls and 4 learning assistants who served as mentors/counselors for the camp participants. The camp was a huge success. The positive feedback received from the parents and the students was overwhelming. In December of 2014, the STEM Accelerator program was awarded a grant in the amount of $20,000 from the Northern Virginia’s Business Women’s Giving Circle to expand the F.O.C.U.S. program. With those funds, the cost was reduced almost 60% for the 2015 camp. The funds also allowed the program to grow significantly to 75 girls and 20 counselors.
With $20,000 in funding received from Battelle Corporation and $1000 from VA Bio, the F.O.C.U.S. camp grew to 93 girls and 22 undergraduate learning assistants in 2016. The Battelle Corporation financially supported the program in 2017 and 2018 as well. In 2017, we reached our goal of 100 girls and 24 undergraduate learning assistants.
As FOCUS camp participants began to outgrow the middle school program, we received numerous requests to begin a high school program, therefore, in 2018, the FOCUS Academy residential program was introduced. With $20,000 in financial support from the Business Women's Giving Circle again, twenty-five high school girls, primarily FOCUS middle school camp alumni, stayed on the George Mason University campus and became fully immersed in the college experience. Each day they participated in various activities including: advanced, hands-on STEM workshops, college prep and goal setting sessions, a career panel, and other exciting activities.
In addition to the senior leadership team, we have a 1:5 ratio of undergraduate counselors to participant in both the middle and high school FOCUS programs. Our counselors are STEM majors, many of whom are interested in becoming STEM educators themselves.
All of our workshops and sessions are led by George Mason University faculty and other discipline-specific experts from outside of the University.
To provide middle and high school girls of color with a unique educational and social enrichment opportunity
To provide positive role models and experiences with STEM that will increase their confidence level in their knowledge, skills, and competencies in STEM
To increase their interest in STEM
To help them to better understand their career goals
"The FOCUS Four": Co-founders of the FOCUS Camp
Top Row (L-R): Kelly Knight, Padmanabhan Seshaiyer
Bottom Row (L-R): Danielle Craddock, Claudette Davis
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The Washington Post by Sarah Larimer
July 3, 2017
News at Mason
by John Hollis
July 12, 2017
GMU STEM Accelerator
August 3, 2016
Washington Exec by Lauren Budik
January 22, 2015
WJLA by Good Morning Washington
July 14, 2016
FCPS School News
May 3, 2017
GMU Fourth Estate
January 28, 2015
Mason Spirit by Cathy Cruise
October 28, 2016