A Richmond Hill community center is putting local kids face-to-face with some of the country’s leading scientists for a one-of-a-kind learning experience.
Simcha Waisman, president of the One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center, has been running the video conferencing program for 16 years. First approached by a local teacher with the idea, the two have worked together to grow and expand the program.
“We’ve made big strides,” Waisman said. “Talking to NASA, astronauts, engineers. And slowly but surely, that’s how we developed this great program.”
This year, students in the program will have the ability to speak with scientists from NASA’s Johnson Space Center and the St. Louis Zoo through video conferencing technology, putting a wealth of scientific knowledge at their fingertips.
During the video conferencing sessions, Waisman explained, the kids are in charge.
“The kids are the only ones asking question,” Waisman said. “The kids have to do research, come up with questions they want [answered]. They make the questions. We only supervise them.”
Through the experience, the young students learn valuable life skills, including problem solving, teamwork and public speaking.
“They learn how to talk; how to communicate,” Waisman said. “It’s not easy for the kids to stand in front of the microphone. But by the time they finish the program, they are fluent.”
After each session is done, the organizer said, students are buzzing with excitement as they wait for their parents and guardians to pick them up.
“They are so excited, you can hear them on the way out explaining to their parents what they learned,” Waisman said.
The program, which is completely free to students, is kept going with funding from local politicians and generous donations from the community, Waisman explained. Each year, the organizer approaches local schools and churches about the program. Interested students then go through an application process, which includes a recommendation from a teacher.
“It’s not for me; it’s for the kids,” he said. “Nobody else has this kind of program around us. We are the only community center in eastern corridor in the U.S. doing what we’re doing.”
This summer, the program will run from July 18 to 27 at the center on 110th Street and Jamaica Avenue.