Friday, July 29, 2022
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
One of the most rewarding experiences of my life has been witnessing the progressive transformation of our students as they grow into productive, promising members of society. Our summer camp students are great examples of this transformation. Day after day this summer, from the vantage point of my second-floor office window, I watched the steady march of hundreds of middle schoolers, junior high schoolers and high schoolers across our campus as they moved from classrooms to labs to design spaces, to games and activities, and to residence halls in the evenings, all as part of their residential summer camp activities. Today is the final day of the last of our renowned residential summer camps, which attracted over 700 students from across the country and internationally to our campus. The “sold out” camps included Introduction to Engineering, Robotics, Nuclear Engineering, Space: The Final Frontier, Aerospace, Formula SAE Electric, and Exploring Materials.
In addition to these residential summer camps, we added two day camps this year due to popular demand:
Our camps were at capacity with a waitlist this summer, and encouraged by student inquiry and participation, we have decided to increase our capacity by 25% each year to provide these thought-provoking and hands-on opportunities to more of our young, inquisitive minds.
Thanks to our sponsors such as the National Science Foundation, the Kummer Institute Foundation, companies such as Boeing and Oxy, and the support of faculty, students, staff and the community, we were able to keep the cost of participation at a minimum. It will warm your hearts to know that several of our summer camp students were from families that could not have provided their children these awesome opportunities without scholarships. In some cases, these were families with extreme housing and financial problems. “The scholarship lightened my financial burden and made this camp come true,” said one student. Another student, who is the fifth of seven children, said, “I would not have been able to afford this opportunity if it weren’t for the scholarship.”
Interestingly, and not surprisingly, the conversion of our summer camp participants to S&T students is extraordinary. The “yield” of campers who choose S&T for college is the highest of any group known to us. The student testimonials of their experience are heartwarming and remarkable: “Ever since I walked through the door, I knew this was where I belong.” “This was the best summer ever.” “My interaction with S&T faculty and students was awesome, and I made great friends.” “I will be submitting my application this fall to Missouri S&T to study civil engineering.” “I am looking forward to going back to the S&T campus to experience the engineering program.” “It is a glimpse into the life and career that I think I would like to follow.” “I had no idea what I wanted to do or what I wanted to become. Thanks to my two camps, I know exactly what I would like to be. I have a vision that I would like to follow.”
The parents had similar words of praise for the camps. “You changed my son’s life,” one parent wrote. And one mom said: “My teenage son was having a hard time at home, and almost didn’t come to camp due to personal turmoil. He was so thankful that he was encouraged to attend. He felt his life had been changed because of his experience on campus. He now has a plan for what he wants to do and has a clear vision, which he did not have before. My son hadn’t opened up to me like this in a very long time.”
I am grateful for the tireless work of our Kummer Center for STEM Education leaders and staff, whose organization and operation of these camps were critical to their success. The sense of accomplishment these young student campers expressed was highly rewarding for all of us here at S&T. Without a doubt, our most important role as leaders is to inspire the inquisitive minds of these young students in our care to believe in themselves and to enable them to enhance their skills, knowledge and abilities (SKAs) to convert that belief into reality. We must make their inspiration our aspiration, and we must make it clear that vision alone, albeit necessary and exciting, is not sufficient. They have taken the first step and now they must take the next step and the one after that and stay the course to build the future they envision.
And our reward is their future but let’s ground ourselves and rejoice in this moment of the successful end of another great summer camp season.
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