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Kevin Dow

By Kevin Dow

3, 2, 1…Blastoff to Success!

Thu, September 01, 2016

Teacher Pete Dolcy helps students build their own rockets

35 pairs of eager eyes were on the teachers, Pete Dolcy and Matt Mignin, as they prepared to launch a month-long summer camp for students at Port Norris School in Commercial Township. The teachers’ tasks? Find an engaging way to inspire the students, many of whom traditionally would be considered at-risk, to achieve academically and fulfill their potential.

But for Pete and Matt, the answer was clear: To inspire their students to reach for the stars, all they had to do was teach them to build a rocket that could take them there.

The summer camp, funded in part through a United Way Impact Fund grant to Cumberland Empowerment Zone, is a vital resource for many families in the community, especially when school is out of session.

Not only does the Cumberland Empowerment Zone’s 21st Century Community Learning Program provide students with a safe environment while their parents are working, but it also creates a fun learning space by introducing them to new experiences that help keep their minds and bodies active during summer. Activities also include mentoring, parental involvement activities, and family literacy and career development so whole family units can continue to establish stability and self-sufficiency and thrive in their community.

While at summer camp, the students may have learned more about propulsion and electricity, but Pete and Matt ensured they also walked away from their rocket launch with lessons that extend beyond fundamental STEM studies:

  • It doesn’t always matter how fast or high your rocket soars – if you pack your parachute too tight (or not at all), you’ll have to brace for a rough landing;
  • Working in a team might be challenging, but when you listen to one another and ask questions along the way, the end result can be out-of-this-world;
  • And perhaps most importantly, there will be times when you follow every instruction and plan each step perfectly, but your rocket still won’t take off. And that’s okay.

Thanks to programs like those supported by the Cumberland Empowerment Zone, more local students have the opportunity to receive a quality education from cradle to career – and maybe even learn to fly along the way.

View photos from the Port Norris Rocket Launch.