For a ninth year, the HWS Summer Academy will welcome to campus some of Geneva High School’s brightest students for a two-week intensive learning program. From June 24 to July 5, promising students of color from the community that they will experience life, work and the excitement of Hobart and William Smith.
“There are some students that are already doing well when they come to the academy, whose parents have been to college and they are definitely college track,” says Professor of Chemistry Walter Bowyer. “Then there are others who think college would be nice, but ask: is it really realistic? When they see their peers just assuming that one goes to college – there’s really a big boost there.”
Bowyer founded the program nearly a decade ago in an effort to encourage high school students of color to maintain interest in education and pursue college upon graduation. Since its founding, the program has seen all of its 50 students apply – and get accepted to – college. “The students are so fun to work with,” says Bowyer. “The faculty and staff who work with them always talk about how much fun it is. They are energetic, enthusiastic and creative. They just click as a group.”
Megan Soule ’14 is volunteering with the academy for her first time this year, and has been working to help pull together a diverse curriculum, reflective of all the Colleges have to offer. Soule served as a civic leader for Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning during the fall 2012 semester, and it was during her work there that she learned about the Geneva 2020 initiative, which seeks to further the education of children in the community.
“The Summer Academy is tremendous for the collective impact of Geneva 2020. It’s really inspiring to see so many community members who see it as something important for our town and as something impactful for the school district and the children of Geneva,” explains Soule. “There is so much potential for this to be a huge program — to not only involve the Colleges, but also the Geneva community.”
This year’s schedule is filled with college-level courses taught by members of the HWS faculty. Professor of Dance Donna Davenport will lead a dance class, Professor of Art and Architecture Elena Ciletti will instruct a session on art and art history, and Associate Professor of English Laurence Erussard will give students a look into the world of fables in her literature course.
A new job-shadowing component will be introduced to the Summer Academy, giving students the chance to work side-by-side with a professional on campus or in the community. For two hours, each student will see the daily tasks of professionals working in fields including communications, town planning, law, plant pathology, photography and banking.
Also on the roster are technology-driven classes. Professor of Physics John Vaughn will help students create robots and explore the science of robotics, while Assistant Professor of Media and Society Leah Shafer seeks to help student look at their world through the lens of media.
One of the hallmark aspects of the academy is its intensive admissions and college application programming. In the two weeks of study at HWS, members of the Colleges’ staff will meet with the students, leading workshops on the college admission process, resume building and interview skills and college level writing. Each of these hands-on courses is designed to increase interest in higher education and simplify the application process.
Other workshops include an introduction to the Colleges’ leadership program at the Centennial Center for Leadership and a look into the many opportunities and advantages of civic engagement with the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning.
A closing ceremony in Albright Auditorium on Friday, July 5, will give the students a chance to share their experiences with friends and family, as well as any students who hope to apply to the academy next year.
With artwork created during Ciletti’s course lining the walls of the room, the final presentation will be a rich celebration of experience, with an ensemble dance, a robotics demonstration and personal statements of reflection. All are invited to attend the afternoon ceremony at 2:45 p.m.
In the future, Bowyer hopes to see the program continue to grow and expand – perhaps doubling in size and adding internship and residency components. He is eager to see new ideas and perspectives brought to the table from new faculty members and students alike.
“Listening to the faculty talk about all that they have planned for the academy made me realize that this is truly an amazing opportunity. We are helping these kids,” says Soule. “This is exactly what I want to do with my life — why should I have to wait until after I graduate to do it?”