Camp focuses on real world experience for high school students

Jun 25, 2020 | Education and Human Sciences, General News

COVID-19 won’t stop lifelong learners – high school students from Lafayette who recently used art and science to learn more about the novel coronavirus and how their education can have an impact on the future.

Faculty and staff from Louisiana Tech worked with nearly a dozen high school students from Lafayette to present a virtual camp with the subject, “Keep Calm and Camp on with Louisiana Tech: What’s COVID-19 Got to Do With You?”

The virtual GEAR UP – Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs – is a federally funded program with the purpose of promoting college and career readiness among students in the selected district.

“This was our first time doing multiple days in a GEAR UP camp,” said Dr. Jamie Newman, associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Applied and Natural Sciences and one of the camp instructors. “VISTA – Visual Integration of Science Through Art – provides students the opportunity to combine a passion and interest in both art and science, rather than forcing kids to choose one path.  We think the sooner students see the opportunities that are available to them, the greater impact we can have on them finding their path to a career they are passionate about.”

Newman taught the Biology portion of the camp for the students and said while the experience was definitely different from a face-to-face camp, students were still able to share ideas and experiences.

“Students shared their illustrations, their thoughts, and contributed to problem solving while we figured out how to use visuals to communicate complex and sometimes scary information about the coronavirus and COVID-19,” Newman said.

Tammy Schilling, who served as Director for the Lafayette GEAR UP camp experience, designed the unique experience in partnership with the Science and Technology Education Center (SciTEC) in the College of Education and faculty and staff in the College of Applied and Natural Sciences and the College of Liberal Arts. She noted that the class content was focused on college and career readiness in the midst of a pandemic. Career explorations included nursing, VISTA and healthcare design.

The camp, besides teaching students about the topics mentioned, also gave students an opportunity to experience college academically and socially before actually transitioning to a four-year institution, Dawn Derouen, GEAR UP program supervisor, said.

“We work diligently in the senior year to assist with FAFSA and college application completions,” Derouen said. “GEAR UP’s goal is to make sure that students are college and career ready and will move forward with removing obstacles and clearing the path for a smooth transition to postsecondary.”

The GEAR UP partnership program is in its final year of a seven-year grant cycle, and Derouen said she hopes another grant will allow another cohort of students to participate in the future.

“Louisiana Tech offers the best summer college experience for high school students that I know of,” she said. “The care and love that goes into the planning, implementation and reflection are top notch.”

Nicholas Bustamante, VISTA Center director and who taught the art portion of the camp, said he hopes the students will use their knowledge and consider career fields that combine art and science.

“The GEAR UP camps are rewarding on so many levels,” he said. “You get to work with an amazing team of passionate educators and open up a whole new world to students. Through exposing students to career paths in art and science and sharing my own journey, I hope that students find the confidence to pursue higher education.”

Bustamante said he found the camps as rewarding as the students did.

“I am first generation college graduate and I remember how difficult it was to imagine an education path past high school,” Bustamante said. “I feel like it is my responsibility to help a future generation of students and give them the support that I wish I had back then.”

Other key contributors to the work included Dr. Kirk St. Amant, Lisa Dick, Dr. Patti McFadden, Julie Shrubb, Erika Jones, John Young, Assistant Director Eternity Cleveland and Lead Counselor Angel Sims.