This post is a part of Foundation for Jewish Camp’s summer blog series “Because of Jewish Camp.” Each week, we will be featuring personal reflections from camp parents, staff, and alumni exemplifying the ways that Jewish camp impacted their lives. Follow along all summer long, and share how Jewish camp impacted your life! Tell us your story in the comments, on Facebook, or tweet @JewishCamp using the hashtag #JewishCamp.
Summer is for Shattering the Glass Ceiling
By Greg Kellner
In the past few years, our culture has gained greater awareness of how the STEM field’s problematic “boys’ club” mentality limits our children’s potential. While awareness is an important first step toward addressing the problem, true progress requires action. The world needs more places that actively cultivate passion for STEM in young girls. In essence, the world needs more places like URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy.
URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy is a Jewish overnight camp where campers explore robotics, video game design, environmental science, digital media, and a host of other exciting activities. Sci-Tech East was born out of Foundation for Jewish Camp’s Specialty Camp Incubator II, and Sci-Tech West is part of the Incubator III cohort and just opened this summer. We’re proud to foster young people’s curiosity in the context of Jewish values and community.
As Sci-Tech East begins its fifth summer as a camp community, the significant increase in female campers is truly a point of pride. During our first summer, we had 159 campers in attendance – only 27 of which were girls. As recently as five summers ago, each session included only about 11 female campers. It was impossible to ignore this lopsided ratio; we needed multiple buildings to house the boys, while the girls required only one single floor.
I’m proud to say there are now 91 young women attending Sci-Tech. They now claim five floors in two buildings. Clearly, there is no gap between boys and girls in terms of interest in STEM; the only gap is in a lack of opportunities that support the ambitions of science-minded girls. I’m thrilled that Sci-Tech’s efforts to reach out to girls across the country have been so successful, and that we’ve created a Jewish space where young women can pursue their passion for STEM learning.
It’s remarkable to observe the profound impact that the campers have on one another. For many girls, attending Sci-Tech is a rare and precious opportunity to find a community of like-minded peers who share their interests. As returning camper Sophie says, “I really value science and STEM learning and it’s something that is hard to relate to with people at home, just because there’s not as many people interested in it.” Camper Eliana agrees; “A lot more girls are coming to Sci-Tech now. I think that’s really great because it’s good to have connections with other girls who have similar interests as you, and to be able to explore them together. It’s very empowering to be a girl here at Sci-Tech.” Experiencing STEM learning in a Jewish setting is equally significant for Sci-Tech’s female staff, according to Unit Head Bethany: “Sci-Tech has helped me forge connections between science and Judaism that I otherwise would not have encountered. And it is so breathtaking and inspiring to see female campers find their home in the world of science and technology, an area that for so long has been male-dominated.”
As a Jewish camp, we’re compelled to take meaningful action to promote our tradition’s values of equality, education, and community. The perspectives and skills of all campers – regardless of gender – are essential in creating a more fair, merit-based, and open world for us all.
Adapted and republished with permission from URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy.
Greg Kellner is the Director of URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy and has been part of the URJ Camps and NFTY family for more than 20 years. Before joining the 6 Points team, Greg served as the Senior Assistant Director of the URJ Crane Lake Camp and as the Assistant Director of the URJ Eisner Camp. He is an alumnus of the Yitro Leadership Program, a professional development program for assistant camp directors through the Foundation for Jewish Camp.