STEM Summer Institute 2019: Student Perspectives

Taking part in the CAP & GOWN Project’s STEM Summer Institute has been an amazing experience. Since the first day of classes I’ve  learned many testing techniques, taken part in engaging lessons,  and gained valuable information that can help me on my next ACT and in my classes next year. The STEM SI teachers showed me various things I need to work on in order to improve. I was taught  how to improve my time management, practiced answering questions, set goals, and learned from my mistakes. One important skill I’ve been building is using process of elimination. I know my ACT score will only improve with practice so I am practicing everyday. It takes hard work!

This was my first experience being a part of the The CAP & GOWN Project and I’ve learned that this amazing organization doesn’t ONLY  help students improve their ACT sores, but also helps students apply to colleges and universities, assists in writing resumes and essays, supports scholarship research and applications, and helps students succeed. Being a part of The CAP & GOWN Project has been an amazing experience and I hope this organization will continue to grow and improve to help more students at more schools.

-Yazmin, Jemison High School College Academy


For me, the STEM Summer Institute that the Cap and Gown Project runs at UAH was definitely worth it. The teachers, who took time off their own summer to assist my peers and I kept me attentive throughout the day with ACT problems and concepts. Over the two weeks I spent at UAH, I learned multiple new concepts and facts that I will be able to employ when I take my next real ACT. The program didn’t only help me with my ACT understanding, but Cap and Gown’s own Executive Director, Emily Heller, helped me learn all sorts of new facts regarding universities and the application process to said universities.

The STEM Summer Institute provided me with much more than a generalized classroom experience. Teachers at the program, all of whom I had never met, knew my name by the second day. They provided me with options of one-on-one, hands-on tutoring and ensured I was challenged in my academic studies. Through this program, I also got the opportunity to tour UAH, go on a tour of SES (a company that works on military helicopters), and even had the chance to tour Vanderbilt University in Nashville (although I wasn’t able to due a family event). I even made friends and had some fun at the program. Overall, STEM SI was a positive and beneficial experience which I am very grateful for. 

-Taylor, Grissom High School


Just as I was worrying about how to fully utilize my summer academics-wise, I was lucky to hear about a FREE comprehensive ACT camp called the STEM Summer Institute. This program has helped to guide me and sharpen my skills to maximize my capabilities on the ACT examination. 

On the first day I was tested to figure out what skills we possessed and were then placed by level into groups. Each day we had 4 classes, one for each ACT test—English, math, reading and science. The teacher in charge of each class was an expert in that subject from Huntsville City Schools.  

After the first week, we were given a 5 week “intercession” break along with full ACT practice tests to be completed individually at our own pace. If we needed assistance during intercession, we were able to meet with an instructor during their office hours at various locations around Huntsville. 

Besides comprehensive ACT testing strategies and practices, we were given the opportunity to visit a local corporation to open up windows for high school students in the STEM career field. Also we were celebrated the end of the program with a college tour where we had a chance to visit one of the top universities in the nation: Vanderbilt. 

-Anas, New Century High School


Last Summer I was sitting at home doing nothing, playing Fortnite, not thinking about anything but that game. My brother always came home telling me how much fun he had at this program called the STEM Summer Institute and bragging about what he learned. I was quite envious of him. The following spring many of my teachers encouraged me to sign up for STEM SI myself. I really didn’t want to at first, but I was then I realized it would be better than just going to football practice—I’m a STUDENT athlete. So, I signed up and later got accepted. The first day I really didn’t like it, but my best friend who is also my cousin told me to stay. And that’s what I did. I stayed and even started to like it. I like the lessons we were being taught. I feel like it really helped me. I came here lazy and not wanting to do anything and now I’m trying to be someone.

-Desmond, Jemison High School


When I first got here I did not want to be here, I was complaining too my mom and everything. But then I realized how much this would actually help me especially for my senior year. I met new people, which was scary at first! But I eventually started to enjoy myself— despite waking up early in the morning in summer. The teachers were very nice and helpful and when it came to answering questions they weren’t rude at all. UAH hosted the program which created a wonderful learning environment. It was very educational and fun. Honestly I recommend that students do this program to get exposed to what the ACT is and just to be in a comfortable learning environment with teachers who care about your future.

-Joi, Columbia High School

Emily Heller