According to research by Scholastic, “kids lose significant knowledge in reading and math over summer break, which tends to have a snowball effect as they experience subsequent skill loss each year. All this free time can lead to the summer slide, a regression in academic proficiency due to summer break, and experts warn it is hindering kids’ progress when they head back to school.” 

To address this, Culture is K.E.Y. and its leader Eric Bullock expanded their Saturday Morning Chess mentoring program to a two-month intensive summer enrichment program held at the Prospect Village Community Center. The program was structured to prevent what is commonly referred to as the summer slide, says Bullock. 

The curriculum included math, reading, writing, music, yoga, and art; one day a week, the youth experience “If you can see it, you can be it.” A novel approach to career exploration that goes beyond the textbook to an all-encompassing series of high-touch, high-impact sessions and field trips with hands-on lessons. 

It included “the science of healthy eating, healthy foods, healthy choices, and healthy living,” with a registered nurse, Ms. Nyanga Kabia as the host and facilitator. This was followed by an “introduction to flight” hosted by George Long, a Licensed Private Pilot, and a member of The Draper Chapter of Black Pilots of America, and being involved with several other aviation organizations that promote youth in aviation. 

“Friday was an exciting day for students from Culture is K.E.Y. The future aviators visited Robbinsville airport, where two members of The Draper Chapter of Black Pilots of America greeted them,” Long said. 

Next, it was off to the Camden Aquarium to explore one-of-a-kind exhibits and over 15,000 aquatic animals, including the most extensive collection of sharks in the Northeast, this field trip focused on the life sciences and the work of marine biologists.

 Bullock capped off the summer program to prevent the summer slide with a genuinely excellent “S.T.E.M. Master Class” delivered by a cohort of corporate executives from The Estee Lauder company. This Master’s class could easily have been taught at M.I.T. and provided an honest exploration of the theory and application of S.T.E.M. and related areas.

 The presentation, like all the others, was tailored to the youth with the concept of “Reach them where they are, and you can take them where you want them to go, but first, you must reach them where they are” A concept used by Eric Bullock’s dad, Edward Bullock for over 40 years.

The S.T.E.M. presentation focused on building strong structures, testing prototypes and understanding the importance of building materials and data calculations; data collection using spreadsheets and how to use math techniques and technology systems to help solve complex problems; manufacturing processing & chemical reactions and how batch recipes can be created, manufactured, and scaled up to make products we use daily; and color chromatography – how scientists use experiments and lab techniques to analyze and solve problems.

All experiments were conducted leveraging Good Manufacturing Practices (G.M.P.) and lab P.P.E. (Personal Protective Equipment)- lab coats and safety goggles were worn by all participants. 

“As the CEO of Culture is K.E.Y. and on behalf of my entire team of junior counselors and volunteers at Culture is K.E.Y., we are extremely thankful for the opportunity that was presented to us to encourage, inspire, and motivate the next generation of scientists, engineers, aviators, marine biologists, entrepreneurs, medical professionals and a lot more,” Bullock said.