I had the best summer ever! First, I got hired to work as an intern for the Public Education Foundation (PEF). At the beginning I was a little nervous because I didn’t know what to expect, but once I met the fantastic PEF staff, I immediately felt at ease. There are a lot of great people working at PEF, who are dedicated to making Hamilton County teachers and students a success. It was an honor to learn from and work alongside PEF’s fantastic team of professionals. They are truly a valuable resource to our community.
Second, I was fortunate enough to be able to qualify for and participate in a PEF program called Camp College. How often do you get the opportunity to speak to college recruiters and admissions officers to get valuable tips on how to get into college? Most students will say never, but last week 72 seniors (including myself) from the Chattanooga area got that opportunity at Camp College.
What is Camp College: Camp College is a three-day college preparation program for rising seniors to gain valuable information and support from admissions officers and college advisors.
When and Where: Each year, since 1999, Camp College has been held in mid-July at Sewanee: The University of the South.
Who is Eligible: In order to be accepted into Camp College, you must have a Grade Point Average of 3.0 or higher, you must have financial need and/or be the first in your family to attend college.
Day 1: Before leaving for Camp College, at Sewanee: The University of the South, we met up in the lobby of the Doubletree Hotel to hear from Mitch Patel, the President and CEO of Vision Hospitality. He shared with us about how he and his dad were able to achieve and are living the American Dream. He spoke of how important collaboration was in achieving our dreams. He explained how it is absolutely vital to initiate great partnerships in order to grow and expand in the business world. He was very inspirational. After that meeting we loaded the buses and headed to Camp College.
Camp College 2017 was a highly beneficial experience for me. When we first arrived at Sewanee, we unpacked our bags in our dorm rooms. Now I don’t know about you, but I have never had the chance to live in an actual college dorm room before, so already from the very beginning, I was given my first taste of what college was like.
After getting settled in our dorms and getting to meet our roommates, we all came together in the Convocation Hall for group activities so we can all get to know each other. We were split into 11 groups of 6 or 7; we stayed in our same groups throughout the three-day program.
Next we took a tour of Sewanee’s campus. Sewanee has a large campus: 13,000 acres to be exact. It is a big, beautiful campus with so much open space. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you will love it because it honestly looks like Hogwarts.
Immediately following our tour, all groups came back together for a fun game of Jeopardy, which I actually designed myself. The questions were based off of the information from the tour and basic questions about colleges in Tennessee. It was very exciting; all of the students were getting involved and being very competitive but respectful of others.
After a long day of activities, we ate dinner at the McClurg Dining Hall. I felt like an actual college student because we were given meal passes so we can eat within the hall. I really liked the Dining Hall because it’s an all you can eat buffet, so we could eat as much as we want at a reasonable price.
To end the night, we watched The Hobbit at the Sewanee Union Theater. What a day!
Day 2: After a great first day, we woke up early the next morning to have breakfast. Following breakfast, we got back in our groups for a case study discussion. For our discussion, we were to take on the role of an admissions officer of a fictional college. Our job was to look over four applications and decide which students should be accepted, denied, or put on the wait list. This was a very enlightening exercise because all of us realized that it’s not easy deciding who should be accepted. Sometimes admissions officers have to dig really deep into your application to make their decision. That’s why it’s important to include everything that you do that will showcase your special and unique qualities; it’s not all about your GPA and grades.
Following the case study, we began our process of writing our application essays. Our advisors gave us time to brainstorm and plan out what we wanted to share. After lunch we were allowed time in the computer lab to write our essays. The essay is so important because it’s your only way to express yourself for who you are so you won’t just be defined by your academic achievements.
After spending valuable time writing our essays in the computer lab, we all got the chance to learn more about colleges at the College Fair. Many colleges from the Southeast area came to give valuable information on their particular university. Some colleges that participate were: Tennessee State University, Reinhardt University, Transylvania University, Rollins College, and many more.
The last event of our second day was the talent show. This is where the students (and faculty) got to show off their talents. We had a great time and plenty of laughs. Who knew that Ms. Stacy Lightfoot, our beloved leader, could sing? That lady can blow, I was very impressed.
Day 3: Our third and final day of Camp College was very short and a little sad too. The day started with us packing up our bags and turning in our keys to the dorms. After breakfast, Mr. Jamie Ensley gave us a final presentation about life after high school. He lectured us on the ins & outs of college life and how to stay on the right path to success. Students and faculty shared their farewell comments before we headed back home. Hugs were given, tears were shed and many expressed how this three-day program has been such a blessing for them. It was obvious that all of the students participating enjoyed this experience and so did I.
Camp College was not only informative it was a lot of fun as well. I had so many fantastic experiences, too many to list. But my most favorite experience of the summer was the love and acceptance I received from the gracious staff at PEF and Step Up. I will always look back on my very first work experience with the fondest of memories. I have a deep respect for the work that PEF does for our community. The entire staff works hard at making our community a much fairer and better place to live and work in.