Summer camp programs introduce kids to colleges

Sports, art, academics lure potential students

April 20, 2003|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Area colleges and universities have long known that summer camps are a good way to fill vacant campus space during the slow season. And they're finding an added benefit: recruitment.

"A lot of our programs focus on attracting young people to the campus who maybe have never stepped foot on a college campus before," said Marsha Logan, administrative specialist for the Office of Continuing Studies at Morgan State University. "It gives them an idea of what being on a campus is like. And it starts them thinking about going to college - and maybe making Morgan their choice."

On campus after campus, administrators seek to build on the strengths of their institution with a mix of recreation, academics and collegiate atmosphere that can prove enticing to middle school and high school students just beginning to focus on higher education.

At Morgan, for example, one of the popular summer programs is the Earthwatch Career Exploration Program, which promotes interest in engineering, mathematics and computer science for seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders.

And sending a child to summer camp on a college campus is not only alluring to the child, it is also attractive for the parent.

"Because Morgan is located in a residential area, a lot of the parents here are looking for something for their kids to do in the summer," Logan said. "They feel Morgan is a safe haven and that the environment will be good for them."

Mary Jo Colbert, director of Conference Services for McDaniel College in Westminster, said the summer camps and programs take advantage of resources that otherwise are underused during the summer.

"Participation in the residential summer program is not as high as during the rest of the year," Colbert said. "So summer programs are a way to utilize facilities. We make money for the college and keep employees such as housekeepers and food service personnel as 12-month employees instead of nine-month employees."

The college offers a number of programs, including sports, academic and art camps. The Baltimore Ravens training camp is held at McDaniel College and attracts large crowds to the campus in the summer.

One camp that brings in selected high school junior boys from across the state to McDaniel College is the Maryland American Legion Boys State program. The weeklong overnight camp is highly sought after by its participants and offers the college an opportunity to show off its campus.

"Students come here and keep us in mind when it's time to choose a college," Colbert said.

Patricia Palmer, director of program development for advanced academic programs at the Johns Hopkins University, agreed.

The Pre-College Program offered by Hopkins is one example. Students can take undergraduate courses for credit that can be transferred to the college of their choice. Typically, about 300 students take part in the five-week summer program.

"This is a way to introduce ourselves to talented students and to get on their list of schools they might be interested in attending," Palmer said. "We want to show them what kinds of classes we offer, what our faculty are like, how nice our campus is and the resources we have to offer."

Like most colleges, the University of Maryland, College Park offers a wide range of summer camps for a variety of age groups. Camps run the gamut from the popular sports camps, to art camps to academic camps.

"Each year, there are more and more opportunities on campus for youngsters," said Joan Rosenberg, coordinator for the School/University Cooperative Programs at College Park. "The university is taking a global view of education that ranges from prekindergarten through college. We want to look at the kinds of educational opportunities our children are experiencing."

The idea, said Rosenberg, is to make the transition from each level of education as seamless as possible. In recent years, that has meant embracing middle school pupils.

"We've come to realize in order to have students ready for college we need to look at the middle school years," Rosenberg said. "Waiting until high school is almost too late."

Don Elliott, the continuing education coordinator for the creative arts for the Community College of Baltimore County, said variety is the key when it comes to summer camps.

"We used to do only arts and sports," Elliott said. "Nowadays, students want to explore different career options, so we see a lot of students combine an educational program with a recreation-type experience as well."

He said that exposing young students to the college setting is important.

"I consider it part of a college's service to the community," Elliott said. "It gets them familiar and comfortable with the campus so it's not so intimidating in the future. And parents want this as well."

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