College Life Not Just About Tests and Studying for Visiting High Schoolers

Monday, July 21, 2008

The turtle went missing, so the visiting high school students immediately got to work testing evidence in SJU’s Science Hall. It was just another day on campus, at least for the ICC campers who came to SJU to sample college life. As part of a fun scientific session led by biology department chair Karen Snetselaar, Ph.D., and a cohort of SJU biology graduate students, the high schoolers spent an afternoon in her lab, testing evidence to crack the case of a kidnapped turtle.

This was just one session of the latest Ignatian College Connection (ICC) Summer Enrichment Program, which provides rising high school seniors and juniors the opportunity to prepare for the transition into higher education and for the successful completion of high school.  The eight-day program, now in its fourth year, was held on campus from June 23 to July 2 and attracted 18 students from Philadelphia Jesuit, public and parochial high schools. Although solving the case of the missing turtle was not the only ICC activity, it was certainly a highlight.

Mariana Morris, a 2004 graduate from the SJU biology graduate program and program manager for National Science Foundation Graduate Teaching Fellows GK-12, helped organize the session. “Grad students set up the mock crime scene, then the campers had to draw the scene, record evidence and identify mystery substances. Observations are very important for scientists, so it was helpful for the students to get the hands-on experience of collecting and testing evidence,” said Morris.

She continued, “They were all very engaged and some of them had even done some of the activities before in their high school science classes, so it was great for them to revisit what they had previously learned and see how it applied at the college level and beyond.”

In addition to hands-on science sessions, the students learned about current Summer Scholars projects happening on campus. They also sat in on one-hour classes in a variety of disciplines and attended SAT preparation classes, in which common SAT vocabulary was incorporated into rap as a tool for increasing verbal acuity.

On the last day of camp, juniors gathered in the Mandeville Teletorium to present their “life plans,” which detail the college and career paths they wish to pursue. The rising seniors, led by Melissa Logue, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology, presented statistical information and trends relating to their respective Philadelphia neighborhoods, which resulted in an ethnographic study shared in group presentations.

According to one student, Jalisa, from Philadelphia High School for Girls, “I came to the ICC camp not knowing anything about the program, and left knowing more about myself.” She added, “The most important thing I gained from the program was friendship. I came away with several new friends.”

--Sarah Whelehon '07 (M.A.)

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