By Dr. Chris Hynes, ADVANCE Program Director
NATCHITOCHES – The ADVANCE Program for Young Scholars completed its 31st summer program from July 7-27 at Northwestern State University. The three-week academic and residential program is a collaborative effort with Duke University’s Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP) and is tailored for gifted students who are rising 8th – 12th graders. Students from Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana and one student from the United Kingdom attended the program.
The students immersed in one course of their choice: Algebra 1, Algebra 2, American West, Biology, Chemistry, Creative Writing, Criminalistics and Forensic Science, Film Studies, Geometry, JAVA, Physics or Psychology. Each course was taught by an instructor with an advanced degree and the students also received support from a teaching assistant. Classes were held from 9 a.m. -4 p.m. Monday – Friday and half a day on Saturday.
To balance the challenging academics, the residential life portion offered a variety of recreational and social activities each evening and during the weekend. These activities included movies, sports, board games, arts and crafts and trips to local eateries. This gave the students a chance to mingle with other like-minded students and built a sense of community. Throughout the program, students were under supervision by a residential assistant, teaching assistant or senior staff member.
“Attending an academic academy such as NSU’s ADVANCE Program for Young Scholars was not a plan for my summer,” said Adriana Hernandez of Natchitoches. “Arriving at ADVANCE is one of the best decisions we ever made. I found out my roommate was also going to be in my class. I had different expectations for ADVANCE, but it passed my expectation and I am really proud. ADVANCE really has so many fun activities and the RAs and TAs really encourage you to do activities, so you meet new people. If I have another chance to come back to ADVANCE I will come back.”
“Before coming to ADVANCE, I had been in multiple academic away camps in previous summers, but I think this has been the best experience out of all of them,” said Michael Venson of Round Rock, Texas. “I also like the class I’m in, Psychology, because I’m never bored when I’m learning. Even though I was completely new to the subject, I was taught in a way that is easy to understand. My favorite part of the camp is the activities. Compared to the other camps that I’ve been to, I think ADVANCE is the best one. There is such a diverse group of people here and so many amazing things to do, and I plan on doing it all over again next year.”
Mason McCart of Natchitoches said there is no other camp like ADVANCE.
“It is so special in its way that it is incomparable. This camp inspires you to be your true self. I genuinely feel that the staffers want me to come out of this camp as a more educated and just overall better person. ADVANCE is for sure not just a highlight of my summer, but of my year,” McCart said.
Haley Pritchard of Loveland, Colorado, said she wanted to try ADVANCE to get experience living in a dorm to prepare for college.
“The program ended up being so much more than just some practice living in a dorm,” Pritchard said. “The sense of community, exciting classes and skilled staff had me making the trek back for four more years. I’m now on my fifth and final year at ADVANCE. I’m so happy I’ve gotten to spend these years here and I hope after I age-out I’ll be able to come back as a staffer to be further involved with the program.”