The Eastern Iowa Community Colleges (EICC)' Urban Campus came alive with creativity Thursday, as high school juniors from Davenport Schools presented their projects at the CRE8 Labs Student Showcase. This event marked the culmination of a two-week summer program designed to provide hands-on learning experiences in podcasting, audio engineering, fashion design, graphic arts, and creative writing. Instructors included professionals from WVIK, Riffle, Love Girls Magazine, Mindfire Communications, AyeTJMusic, and VerityIT.

The CRE8 Labs program, a collaboration between EICC and the Davenport Community School District, aimed to keep students engaged during the summer, a critical period when many students experience “summer melt”—a loss of academic gains and enthusiasm for learning.

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"I always just kind of bed rot the entire summer away," said Davenport North student Rylee Sexton. "This program gave me a schedule and kept me productive."

Although she aspires to be a nurse, Sexton chose the fashion design track to explore a long-standing interest in fashion. Rylee's final project included a hand-painted canvas bag and upcycled jeans with hand-embroidered stars on the pockets. In addition to learning hand embroidery and sewing basics, students discussed fashion sustainability – even taking a trip to a local thrift store to find textiles and denim.

“The huge environmental impact of fast fashion was eye-opening," Sexton said. “I want to apply the skills I've learned here in my everyday life. Like fixing my pants or something like that. I also just like being creative, so painting was really fun.”

From painting to podcasting, the audio, design, and writing students all worked together to create a three-episode podcast with WVIK. The students interviewed one another, wrote scripts, edited the audio, created music beds, and even designed a logo for CRE8 Labs.

Cardale Smith, Jr., also a junior at Davenport North High School, saw CRE8 Labs as a unique opportunity to combine his interest in zoology with his passion for content creation.

"Ever since second grade, I've wanted to be a zoologist," he said. "When I found out there was a content creation part of the program, I thought, ‘Ooh, video making and podcasting would really come in handy.’”

Smith was especially drawn to the sound/music engineering portion of the class.

“The amount of thought and careful consideration in sound engineering surprised me,” he said.

Despite initially struggling with the intro for the podcast, he found joy in crafting music for the episodes.

“I still hate the intro I made, but I love the outro. It’s catchy,” he admitted with a smile.

Lea Lefebvre, a freshman from Davenport Central High School, saw the CRE8 Labs program as an opportunity to break out of her usual summer routine and explore different potential career paths.

"I knew I wasn’t going to be insanely busy and wanted to step out of my comfort zone to be exposed to different areas of what I could do in my future," she said.

Lefebvre, who hosted and helped write scripts for the WVIK podcast, enjoyed getting a first-hand view of all that goes into a production.

"What surprised me the most is that it's not as hard as it seems. The audio editing and all that — I thought it was going to be really hard, but it’s actually easy and fun."

She said the skills she learned, especially in public speaking, will be beneficial in her future, particularly as she prepares for college. "I'm definitely more confident speaking in public now, especially with interviews.”

A total of ten students took part in the program, each receiving certificates celebrating their completion. Participants included Dakota Merideth, Gracie Sade, June Reed, Aryana Maca, , Xavier Berdecia, Cardale Smith Jr., Lidia Perez, Rylee Sexton, and Tramar Collier.

In addition to developing their creative projects, students attended workshops focused on employability skills, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship. Plans are already underway to bring the CRE8 Labs program back next summer. To learn more about Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, visit