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2013.06.05 > For Immediate Release
contact: Charley Reed - University Communications
phone: 402.554.2129 - email: cdreed@unomaha.edu

UNO Camp Marks 15 Years of Helping Area Youth 'Aim for the Stars' in STEM Education

Omaha - Young learners from across the Omaha metropolitan area are once again on the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) campus for one of the metro area’s most popular STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education summer programs: UNO’s Aim for the Stars camp, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year.

Starting this week, over 1,770 students, ranging in age from seven to 16, will take part in nearly 50 sessions, with nine camps operating each week over nine weeks. When Aim for the Stars started in the summer of 1998, thanks to a $10,000 donation from the U.S. Department of the Army, just 550 students were enrolled in five sessions.

“We’ve grown so much over the last 15 years that not only does every camp fill up, but we have reached our limit in terms of expansion as well,” explains Connie O’Brien, director for Aim for the Stars.

Each summer since 1998, teachers, principals and educational assistants from the greater metropolitan area, including many from UNO, have provided education and entertainment for students. In recent years, the age range and types of camp sessions have expanded to include everything from fourth graders learning Amusement Park Robotics to tenth graders learning Biochemistry.

"We want to make sure that learners of any age can find opportunities to expand their knowledge and experiences in STEM-related fields on the UNO campus," said BJ Reed, senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs. "In my mind, Aim for the Stars has been incredibly important to our mission as a university."

In 2008, Aim for the Stars added girl-specific camps in areas like chemistry, electricity, forensic science, environmental studies and engineering to help grow their interest in STEM education.

“We’ve always had a strong focus on STEM education, even before people classified it in that way; however, we found that when we had co-ed camps we’d get maybe five or six girls in those sessions all summer,” O’Brien explains. “We’ve quadrupled those numbers since adding all-girls camps, and we are extremely happy about that.”

Since its inception, Aim for the Stars has held free open house events each week for family and friends of campers and this year is no different.

On the evening of June 20, from 6 to 8 p.m., family and friends of current campers, as well as any Aim for the Stars alumni, are encouraged to visit the Durham Science Center on the UNO campus. This anniversary open house will include two planetarium shows, two CAPOW (Chemistry and Physics on Wheels) shows, and visits from the local Raptor Recovery and Parrot Rescue.

“It’ll be a great event where current parents can see what their children have been up to in camp and also where people who have come through camp these past 15 years can see how things have grown since they were here,” O’Brien says.

Many Aim for the Stars alumni, however, are already familiar with the camp’s changes since a large number of alumni end up becoming UNO students who have been hired as counselors or teachers.

“One of the reasons Aim for the Stars has been so successful is because it does take place on a university campus,” O’Brien says. “Parents and children stick around because they love the environment and love what we do.”

That positive environment is more than just physical for O’Brien – it’s emotional. “Aim for the Stars was created to be a camp for every kid, regardless of economic, cultural or physical barriers,” she says.

“We don’t expect the students who leave this camp to be geniuses, we just expect them to be inspired.” More information on Aim for the Stars can be found at aimforthestars.unomaha.edu.

For media requests, contact Charley Reed, UNO media relations coordinator, at 402.554.2129 or by email at cdreed@unomaha.edu.

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The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s metropolitan university. The core values of the institution place students at the center of all that the university does; call for the campus to strive for academic excellence; and promote community engagement that transforms and improves urban, regional, national and global life. UNO, inaugurated in 1968, emerged from the Municipal University of Omaha, established in 1931, which grew out of the University of Omaha founded in 1908.

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© 2014 University Communications. voice: 402.554.2129, fax: 402.554.3541, unonews@unomaha.edu