While most students are savoring the final weeks of their summer vacations outside of school, 18 teenagers sit indoors at classroom desks, discussing the relationship between art and politics in Davidson College professor Burkhard Henkes Hitler and Nazi Germany class.
Speak up. Say something about art and politics, Henke says encouragingly to a quiet student.
This isnt a summer school for students to catch up on studies after theyve fallen behind. Instead, theyre getting a head start on the college experience.
In its 38th year, Davidson Colleges July Experience summer enrichment program is hosting 99 high school juniors and seniors from around the United States and seven other countries for three weeks. The program focuses on preparing students to get into college, teaching them what to expect once theyre college students and introducing them to traditions and life at Davidson.
Students live in Davidson dorms and eat meals at the campus dining hall. They take two classes for a total of three hours every day, in addition to more than three hours of mandatory daily study time for their uniquely themed college-level courses, including Work and Occupations in Modern Society, Family and Justice and Love and Death in Short Fiction.
Other universities, including UNC Charlotte, hold similar summer enrichment programs for high school students.
Brian Wood, a 17-year-old high school senior from Greensboro, applied to July Experience because he is interested in attending Davidson and wanted to get an idea of what it would be like to live and study at a small college. He said the atmosphere in his Davidson classes is stimulating in a way thats not common in high school.
In high school, youre typically driven to stick to the curriculum, while this is, Im assuming, more like what college will be, where you can get distracted with a philosophical question and pursue that for 20 minutes, Wood said.
When theyre not focusing on classwork, students are often attending seminars on topics like how to write an application essay, studying abroad or what its like to be in a fraternity or sorority.
The program also offers activities like a trip to the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, a field day at the colleges lake campus and traditional Davidson Flickerball competitions. Students are encouraged to find a balance between work and play, just as theyll have to do in college, said the programs associate director, Irma Navarro.
July Experience is a tool to recruit students who are excited to learn and may be a good fit for Davidson in the future, Navarro said.
We want to bring students who are going to be successful with the program, knowing that the Davidson faculty is going to give them a challenge, Navarro said. So they have to be willing to embrace that challenge.
The experience is more than just an academic challenge for the students, especially for Martha Kapazoglou, a 15-year-old junior, and Iro Gribizi, a 17-year-old senior, from Thessaloniki, Greece. They attend an international school in their hometown and were referred to the Davidson program by a school counselor.
The amount of work we have to do in a day is double the work back home, Kapazoglou said. The hard part for me is to read everything for the next day. Because my mother language is not English, I have to ... translate a lot of words, so this takes a lot of time for me.
Gribizi said she is enjoying life in a small town in America, and shes considering Davidson as an option for her future college studies.
For 16-year-old junior Kristi Snow, from Alexandria, Va., it might be a little disappointing to go back to high school after getting a taste of college. Unlike in her high school classes, she said, her fellow July Experience students are interested in whats going on in the classroom.
Thanks to her class on Schools, Cinema and American Culture, Snow said shes discovered she might be interested in pursuing studies in sociology.
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