The CREATE summer camp at BCM is a five-week program for middle school students who want to immerse themselves in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). As one might expect, BCM’s staff at the camp teach skills like experimentation and the scientific method in their daily programming. However, they also work hard at creating an environment where students learn to work with each other, open themselves up to the world, as well as have fun! One of BCM’s staff members at the camp, Angie Menjivar, particularly enjoys creating this experience for the students.
This is Angie’s second summer working with the CREATE camp. Outside of her summer months, she is a rising senior at Saint Mary’s College where she plans to graduate with a major in Sociology. Angie is proud of her choice to major in sociology because it has expanded her view of the world and of other people. “Learning sociology has opened my mind up, and opened my perspective and point of view. I’m a person who likes to listen to others’ perspectives even though I might not agree with them.” Alongside going through academic workbooks and building catapults with her students, she also brings this considered and open view of the world to the camp classroom. “When a student says a general stereotype, I like to say “Hey, not everyone is like that.” I try to give them more information. I have a sociological viewpoint now, it’s just stuck in my brain.
When she’s not giving her students important life perspectives, she loves having fun with them and just hanging out. She describes herself as someone who is very laidback when working with students, which she has done ever since high school. She likes to joke around with them, and goes out her way to get to know them. Every day at CREATE summer camp, Angie has a policy during break-time to get to know as many of the students as possible. “I like to talk to the other students during break that aren’t my students, because I want to give all the students some attention and get to know every one of them. The students like to play basketball sometimes, and I like to play with them.”
Getting to know them is the most exciting part of the camp for her, and she hopes that making new and long-lasting friendships will be the most exciting part of the camp for the students. She recalls fondly her childhood experience of attending East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring (EPATT), an afterschool program that she was a part of from 2nd grade to the end of high school. Through EPATT, she has gotten to know many close friends whose friendships she treasures to this day. “What I’m most excited for is to see how much these students have grown compared to when they first came in. I’m already looking back to the first day when everyone was quiet, and now everyone’s starting to learn each other’s names. I hope they become friends in a way, and when they see each other in the future, they’ll say 'oh hey!’ Those friendships are so valuable.”
Angie has been working with youth for a long time now, but this years' experience of weathering COVID-19 is certainly new to her. “We have to take a lot of policies into consideration. We have to make sure that all the students have their masks on. If they touch a ball or sit on a desk, we have to sanitize everything – to make sure that we provide the students a safe environment, and to make sure that we as teachers have a safe environment too.” Despite the limitations of these necessary public health policies, Angie has found a way to make the day-to-day of the summer camp work for herself and the students in her care.
Almost every day during this year’s summer camp, Angie starts her day with a smoothie (fruits, peanut butter, flax seeds!) before picking up a student and a co-worker on the way to BCM. Once there, she preps to make sure that her students get the most out of their classes and projects even though they have to be less hands-on than previous years. One of her ideas in the classroom is to offer her students incentives to finish up their projects through a ticketing reward system. One of the projects her students have done with her is making their own ice cream! (Mostly yummy, though some were too salty.) After finishing up her day around late afternoon, Angie likes to chill by getting into video games (she usually loves the outdoors in pre-pandemic times). Animal Crossing is her game of choice for now.
Angie concludes that she is very thankful for her life and situation right now. She is in a happy place, and she hopes that by teaching at the summer camp, she can help her students, “Grow up and do something cool but also enjoy living their lives now, because they’re kids!”