As FabNewport enters our 6th year of The Newport Experience, staff and students alike find themselves fondly reminiscing on the years that have brought us to where we are. From 3 adults and 6 students in 2017, to 100 students and 25 mentors and adults this summer, the evolution of NEX has been thrilling.
Below are interviews with two of FabNewport’s summer interns, Katie Ochoa and Autumn Walker, who have been a part of the FabNewport family since the beginning years of our summer programs. We sat down with the two to discuss FabNewport’s journey- and their own journeys with us.
– NPT COMMUNITY ADVENTURE SECIALISTS AND COMUNICATIONS Lauren McKinnon
Katie joined FabNewport in 2015 as a fifth grader during FabNewport’s first ever year of The Newport Summer Experience.
What was the first year of camp like for you? Do you remember why mom or dad signed you up? How did you get here?
Steve. How did you know Steve? I did an afterschool program here, on wearables. I was in fifth grade. I started camp, I think that summer.
And what was it like? What do you remember?
A lot of bikes. All biking. It was me, Steve and this guy named Alex, and Chris -we biked around Newport, and we definitely did things we would not do now. There were very loose rules, there were 6 kids and 3 adults…. Yeah I’ve been here since the beginning. I’m the only student who has done each year.
So you’ve really been able to watch the progression then, from 6 kids 3 adults to 100 kids and 25 adults…. If this summer was going to be your best NEX, what would it entail?
I hope this summer we have more time for everyone-things. (Having more days where multiple groups are together). I like the idea of having pods like we’re in. Keeping that and having more group things creates more of a sense of community.
Katie also mentioned how she could see the positive characteristics from her high school The East Bay MET reflected in camp, given Steve and Chris’ years at teaching there she noted it made good sense.
I’m excited for outside. Being with people who make me happy.
How has being a part of NEX impacted you and your journey? Impacted your skill sets, confidence maybe, your ability to be you?
I think that I would be a completely different person-unrecognizable. I think Fab has influenced me in so many ways, and I am grateful to be a part of a community that is so giving. Fab has opened the doors for so many opportunities, and I think that Fab really has made my life just, more positive.
Autumn became a part of the FabNewport Family since sixth grade at Thompson Middle School in 2018, joining our NEX Summer Experience in its second year. Autumn returns back this year as a second year student intern.
Was your first experience with Fab an afterschool program? Or summer camp?
Summer camp program actually. When Chris and Abby [former FabNewport community specialist] came to our school and said “We’re looking for kids to do biking this summer,” I thought… eh, biking, but I took home the program sheet… I was too old to do the MLK summer camp, so my mom said we’re going to fill this out and send you here. (laughing)
So how many other kids were in that summer do you remember? Or how many adults even? Do you remember what it was like?
2-3, Chris, Abby, and Steve for the most part. Sometimes Keith [Director of PVDYM] when he was around here. Kids wise… it was a pretty small group. Probably not more than 20.
When you think back on your first summer with FabNewport, what do you think about?
A lot of biking. The community complaining about biking (both laugh-knowing how hard the first few years were figuring out the reality of an originally bike-based camp).
I remember being upstairs actually [in the Florence Gray Center] and not using the FabNewport rooms at all because Seiji (former FabNewport employee, current director of the Programs in the Providence Public Library) was using the FabLab for his computer class. I remember we had a farmers stand we would go to, we’d bike to first beach, biking all around the island, I believe we did about 400 miles. All bikes. There were very few times we’d actually use cars. The bikes here provided by Bike Newport. I got my first bike, to actually bike around with, from Bike Newport. Most of the students the first year got bikes provided through Bike Newport – which was very nice of them. And then kids either bought their bikes when the Summer ended or they continued to use the bikes provided by Bike Newport.
I would have never have biked on the streets, or anything. Where I used to live, there was a parking lot I would bike in. That’s where I learned how to bike and everything.
What are you looking forward to most this summer?
Hanging out, being with friends, being with Lauren, fishing, the beach, seeing all of the kids smiling faces. I know our goal was around 100 kids, and we’re pretty close, so that feels pretty big to me. Considering, oh yeah we had 20 kids every previous summer – give or take – and adding 60 more. Wow!
What does it feel like going from being the 11 year old on the bike to now the 15 year old sophomore at the MET School molding the minds of 11 year olds? You’re now the one impacting them, and you were the one once being impacted… that’s quite a journey.
I can definitely say that four years ago I could never see myself in this position. I was very much just a shy reserved kid that pretty much didn’t want to talk to people. I could never have seen myself teaching younger kids. With my speech impediment it made me not want to open my mouth back then. Now I’m in the position where I’m teaching these kids, having fun with them. [Though I am a navigator] I’m also a kid here who’s here to have fun just like everyone else – and that’s the real fun part.
It’s funny to me to hear you say that, as someone who met you as a very confident 14 year old, full of talent, and care, and thoughtfulness. I’ve always seen you being great with younger kids, and great at teaching the skills you have. I guess I’m saying I can’t picture you as a shy kid because I’ve only ever seen you as a really strong, confident young adult. You are a huge part of FabNewport.
Well now you’re going to make me cry Lauren. Too many compliments. Yeah. I can’t imagine myself not being a part of and helping FabNewport for all these years.