The GEMS Camp, launched in summer 2010 as a free 6-week Saturday camp, preparing urban girls in grades 7 through 9 to be well-rounded, confident, and ready for college and beyond. Saki Milton, a middle school mathematics teacher was inspired by her 10th grade students who had to complete a yearlong personal project with just $1,000 cash. She decided to use her spring break vacation to create a personal project of her own. Her passion for mathematics and love for serving youths led her to a STEM camp for girls in neighborhoods similar to her own as a child. Because of her experience teaching in affluent and poor schools, Ms. Milton saw numerous disparities between the two and wanted to bring a quality, engaging learning experience for girls who attend large urban schools that aren’t receiving the free, quality public education that every child deserves. She contacted her local library, where she tutored, and was surprisingly granted free access to host the camp there free of charge.
The GEMS Camp began with six college student mentors and two instructors. In August 2010, thirty girls were honored at a special graduation ceremony. In 2011, The GEMS Camp partnered with another successful organization, Circle of Support (COS), a 501(c)(3) organization to offset the costs of the camp. Facilities, lunch, field trips, and instructors were provided by COS allowing Saki to focus on executing instruction and character building activities for 30 girls. The GEMS Camp has a unique educational niche by targeting underserved girls (minorities and low-income) with high-quality, free and extensive educational services, an estimated value of $1,200.
The organization was officially incorporated on September 24, 2013 in the state of North Carolina and gained its tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service on February 12, 2014. In 2014, The GEMS Camp was held in Houston (The University of Houston Downtown) and Dallas, TX (Clay Academy). Since its inception, The GEMS Camp has been instrumental in inspiring more than 200 girls in STEM studies and is hosted annually at The University of North Texas at Dallas.