Spotlight Series: Erron Gonzalez
June 18, 2020
With many summer activities being canceled due to COVID-19, Palo Alto College has taken their Summer Programs to a virtual space.
STEM Center coordinator Erron Gonzalez, who has overseen STEM-related Summer Programs at the College for the past three years, had the added challenge of modifying programming to be delivered virtually.
"Coming up with virtual camps was a daunting idea because our camps are so hands-on," said Gonzalez. "Normally, when you have face-to-face instruction in our summer camps, you have kids dissecting pigs, or you have kids blowing up rockets."
Gonzalez and her team developed enriching alternatives to keep little ones and teenagers alike occupied this summer, and best of all, there is no commute.
With diverse offerings, middle-school and high-school students will enjoy sessions in engineering, biology, and chemistry in addition to interactive theatre arts and physical activities. This year will see the addition of astronomy and space science. Elementary age students will get in on the fun with STEM and coding camps, among other activities.
Continuing to offer Summer Programs at no cost was paramount for Gonzalez and her team. Any materials needed for the activities will be provided free-of-charge to registrants through contactless curbside pickup at Palo Alto College.
"We know that there are a lot of parents and kids going through hard times," said Gonzalez. "We just didn't even want to think of placing the burden of purchasing a kit online or just purchasing any type of material that was related to an activity."
Gonzalez said that opportunities like Summer Programs on the south side of San Antonio are especially important because they expose underrepresented groups like minorities and women to STEM in fun and engaging ways.
"We have a lot of students who are minorities. The STEM populations and minorities just don't go hand in hand," said Gonzalez. "Especially women in STEM; there's just so few women in STEM. So, we encourage them to get them involved and get them to see how they fit into that world because it's so important."
As a first-generation college student herself, Gonzalez, in many ways, sees herself in the children she serves and that pushes her to make a difference in their lives.
"What connected me was that every single one of these kids has their own stories and struggles,” said Gonzalez. “These students want to succeed and are here proving people wrong. That’s exactly what this program is supposed to do.”
Funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the College’s STEM-related camp offerings are designed to introduce students to diverse careers in STEM fields including biology, chemistry, engineering, space science, computer programming, and artificial intelligence. To learn more and register for camps, visit alamo.edu/pac/summer-programs.