Summer 2018 Newsletter: Transition Camp
This past June, 183 Utah students came from as far away as Gunnison and Ephraim to attend the USU STARS! GEAR UP Transition Camp. The camp, formally known as Big Blue Journey, targets students entering the ninth grade, and has two purposes, to inspire positive high school and college experiences and to give students the tools and confidence they need to succeed in school while starting to see college as a possibility.
The goal of Transition Camp is to make camp accessible to all students, and make learning fun, while focusing on skills that the students will use while transitioning from middle to high school. Instead of “classes,” Transition Camp is made up of workshops, with many of the topics led by advisors from USU’s Academic Success Center. Workshop topics include college awareness, study skills, mental health, math, financial aid, and designing your life, all aimed at building life-skills to help prepare students for high school and beyond.
Thirty group leaders make the difference at camp by showing student what success in college looks like. While students arrive with classmates, they are soon separated into groups of 15 students, most of whom have never met, and led by three group leaders. Group leaders are college students or recent graduates, with backgrounds reflecting the diverse pool of GEAR UP students, many returning year after year. Their goal is to be a mentor to participants, fostering a connection by showing campers someone who was very much like themselves only a short time ago.
“Transition Camp was amazing because it shows the importance of higher education and that anything is possible with hard work,” said Betty Flomo, group leader. Students and group leaders engaged with each other through a variety of games and physical challenges to help build familiarity and trust. On the second day of camp, students overcame fears and worked together on problem solving skills at the USU Challenge Course.
The learning experience continues into the evenings with sports and swimming at the HPER, campus recreational center. One evening, USU students performed for campers during Aggies around the World, showing Native American, Polynesian Islands, and Korean Pop dances. Following the show, students created their own dances in small groups, and performed for each other. Needless to say, it was an entertaining evening for all.
Students formed new friendships and lasting bonds at Transition Camp. Group leader, Kengo James, described one of his student’s experiences by saying that on the first day of camp, the student “sat far away from the group, wasn’t really interested and kept telling us he wanted to go home… it was amazing to see the transformation of this young man. During the last reflection time he told us how he felt like we were a family, how much he loved us, and how he didn’t want to go home!”
Transition Camp remained true to its name, giving students a positive pre-college experience on the USU campus, thanks to the dedication of mentors and students that make the camp a success.