INERTIA:The volunteers sparking a change in learning
PENSACOLA, FLA. (WEAR-TV) —
A group of University of West Florida students decided they wanted to make something "big" happen. Their idea was a spark that lit a fire, that ignited an excitement, that hasn't been contained. This is how "Inertia" works.
These students are staying after school at Oakcrest Elementary. They don't have to be here; they ask to stay every week. It's a little something called "Inertia" that has them excited about being here. It's a program started by University of West Florida computer science major, Basil Kuloba, "I feel any good thing in the community starts as just conversation between concerned people. It was myself, Carson Wilbur and Marcus Jackson; we really wanted to do something in the community to make science fun."
Others quickly bought into the idea. Basil soon had a small army of fellow UWF students volunteering to make science fun, by making learning fun. It was students like Kishane Patel, now a UWF graduate who still volunteers with Inertia, "I was one of those students that, as I was growing up in elementary school, I wasn't always the best at school. And I always thought that that was because I just wasn't good at school. And then I realized that there are some students that just learn differently and we have to accept that and embrace that."
Desiree Fails talked her mom into letting her stay after school and she says she loves this program, "We learned about STEM and STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Basically we do science and we have a lot of fun and we also learn."
Basil's own early struggles are what fueled his passion for finding a way to engage students in difficult subjects in such a way that they "get it." He says that's what worked for him, "I had a teacher that presented it to me in a different way. It was a fun, it was an interactive way. And where I almost failed by math classes the year before, the year after, I excelled."
It's simple projects, using simple things; paper, pipe cleaners, tape, marshmallows, but it's not lost on these students that they're mastering some pretty complex concepts. Donovan Montano is another student who is hooked on Inertia, "I feel like I'm already an adult doing my science stuff. So far, our team has won the first two rounds. And I think we're about to win this one. We've got a bridge."
The excitement of the students energizes the excitement of the volunteers. Kishane says, "Look how many kids are having a great time outside of their school hours. How many times can you find a student that says they love being at school when they don't have to be. We want to find those passions in students and bring them out."
Right now, Inertia is presented in two schools; Oakcrest and Ensley Elementary. They have standing requests to add more schools but, at the moment, Basil and his team are funding the programs out of their own pockets. He says they're determined to do what is takes to keep things going, "I just believe that whenever you see something in the world, you can make the world a better place, you have an obligation to do it."
Donivan says his classmates are impressed by this volunteer commitment, "That is a big honor for them to come with us and have fun but not get paid. It's just a great honor." Kishane says that vibes flowing through this room are their reward, "If they walk out of this room learning something while having fun, then our missions is being reached." Basil Kuloba says that may be enough ... for now, "I want to make Escambia County a better place for everyone to live and learn. That is my number one goal right now and Inertia is just a start with what we're doing."