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Transformative precollege summer programs inspire young students to see themselves on campus

Mar 7, 2024

Two students participating in the summer 2023 IU Precollege Academy work on an art project. Photo courtesy of the Office of Enr... Two students participating in the summer 2023 IU Precollege Academy work on an art project. Photo courtesy of the Office of Enrollment Management

Thousands of high school and middle school students will become familiar with the college experience and get a feel for Indiana University Bloomington when they attend on-campus precollege summer programs in areas such as athletics, science, language, music and more.

Nearly 17,000 students are expected to participate in the 62 programs offered, which includes both day programs as well as overnight programs where attendees can stay in IU Housing facilities and eat at IU Dining facilities.

For the students, including children of IU faculty and staff, it’s an opportunity to gain knowledge, build skills and envision what it would be like to attend IU. For IU, it’s an opportunity to build relationships with prospective students.

“Indiana University takes great pride in offering transformative precollege programs that are designed to inspire and empower the next generation of leaders, thinkers and innovators — and plenty of space to have fun and enjoy summer on a college campus,” said David Johnson, vice provost for enrollment management. “Precollege students get a chance to see campus from a new perspective, and hopefully they’ll consider IU as they get closer to choosing a post-high school path.”

“Campers get the opportunity to ‘see’ themselves at IU by immersing themselves in the college experience,” said Michelle George, executive director of Indiana University Conferences. “These programs are also an excellent opportunity to show off IU’s facilities that are typically underutilized in the summer.”

A workshop at the 2023 Best Buddies Leadership Conference held at IU Bloomington. Best Buddies has conducted summer camps at IU for two d... A workshop at the 2023 Best Buddies Leadership Conference held at IU Bloomington. Best Buddies has conducted summer camps at IU for two decades. Photo courtesy of Best Buddies InternationalIn addition to IU-based programs, the university also has external partners who host their summer programs at the Bloomington campus. This summer, IU Bloomington will welcome the Future Problem Solving International Conference, the Best Buddies Leadership Conference and the International Thespian Festival. George said the three programs would bring in close to 8,000 middle and high school students from all over the country and around the world. Best Buddies has conducted summer camps at IU for 20 years, attracting about 22,000 participants total.

Mia Noller Mulholland, senior director of mission impact for Best Buddies, said IU feels like home.

“The university provides state-of-the-art conference facilities and meeting spaces, including the iconic IU Auditorium and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, that accommodate large gatherings with all the amenities needed to ensure our attendees have a five-star experience the second they arrive on campus,” Mulholland said.

IU’s High School Journalism Institute has had good success getting students interested in the university. From 2009 to 2022, almost 21% of more than 3,700 participants matriculated to one of IU’s campuses.

One former summer camp participant who matriculated to IU and now works for the university is Janai Weeks. She participated in the IU Precollege Academy in 2015, then called the Balfour Scholars Program. She’s now an admission counselor at IU Bloomington and director of the academy, which is a free, weeklong residential camp for historically marginalized rising seniors. The students learn about the college experience, the application process, and cultural identity and education through workshops and interactive sessions.

At the time, Weeks said, she was unsure about attending IU, instead envisioning herself at a historically Black college or university. However, that summer experience changed her mind.

“It was the experience of the precollege program that cemented it for me — living on campus and the opportunity to meet new people,” Weeks said. “Some of my best friends are from that program, and through college long-term relationships have been built.

“It was the exposure and being able to get away from home. I had a lot going on at home and needed time to understand who I am and what I could be. Because of the different workshop experiences on culture and identity, I’ve been able to connect with new people.”

A student works on a project at the 2023 IU Precollege Academy. Photo courtesy of the Office of Enrollment Management A student works on a project at the 2023 IU Precollege Academy. Photo courtesy of the Office of Enrollment Management The IU Precollege Academy resonated with last summer’s participants as well. Weeks said that 89% of the participants applied to IU, 79% were admitted, and 27% chose to attend.

Another summer offering that’s been successful in making connections between students and IU is the weeklong Camp SOUL, which is centered on African American music.

“The camp provides high school students with training in a range of Black music styles, such as spirituals, gospel and R&B, while also focusing on self-development and preparation for college,” said Charles Sykes, the retiring executive director of the African American Arts Institute, which oversees Camp SOUL.

The camp is free, although auditions are required, and concludes with a one-hour performance on the final day.

Bobby Davis, a recruitment specialist with the Hudson and Holland Scholars Program at IU, is a former Camp SOUL participant who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at IU and is finishing a doctoral degree here in African American and African Diaspora studies. He participated in Camp SOUL in 2010 and 2011.

“It set a foundation for my entire future,” Davis said. “It changed the course of my life in terms of the career paths I have followed and ways that I have come to understand music, culture and humanity. It had an influence on all those things for me.”

Davis said Camp SOUL is a holistic experience that’s more than just music; it also empowers students, helping them conceptualize self-identity and picture themselves at the university. It was also at the camp that Davis said he learned about the Groups Scholars program, which help students from historically marginalized communities and underrepresented and first-generation students. The program enabled him to attend IU.

“I would not have known about this opportunity if not for Camp SOUL,” Davis said.

Davis participated in IU Soul Revue and the African American Choral Ensemble as an undergraduate and has continued his involvement throughout his graduate studies. He added that the camp experience taught him discipline and focus, which have helped him in the classroom and in the work environment.

“It was definitely life changing,” Davis said.

Visit the precollege programs website to learn more. Schools and departments that are interested in organizing a summer program and want to learn more about reserving IU Housing and IU Dining facilities should contact Jose Celis-Schmidt by email at rpsconf@indiana.edu.

Author

IU Newsroom

Kirk Johannesen

Communications Consultant, Strategic Communications

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