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Curious Minds - The Summer of Student Engagement

The Summer of Student Engagement


Running WCATY’s six-week, summer enrichment camp marathon is not new to me. After all, this was my fourth summer as either the program’s head resident assistant or the site coordinator. Looking back at my previous summers, I can define them in certain ways: “That was the year of the record-breaking heat,” or “That was the summer of non-stop campus construction.” With the conclusion of the 2014 summer, I am able to reflect back on my personal summer experience once again. From my viewpoint, 2014 was the “summer of student engagement.”

Even before summer began, the WCATY Student Council had helped reshape elements of our summer program policies and designed the camp posters. Student Council members also were deeply involved in planning the first, annual WCATY Alumni Event, held on June 27, in the Upper Carson Gulley Center on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. There, WCATY alumni, community members, instructors, staff members, and students attending the Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) gathered for an evening of food, chatter, and laughter. The purpose: to help them all reconnect with WCATY in support of its newest generation of students. Highlights of the event included the Lip Sync Contest, which never disappoints. This past year was no different; of special note was the rendition of “I Will Survive,” performed by a group of commuter students! 

A few weeks later, during the Summer Transitional Enrichment Program (STEP), I was reminded again of the high level of engagement that students—and in this case, middle schoolers—can achieve when so motivated. A group of students approached the residential staff with a request to hold a student-run “rave.” We have had students put together and run activities in the past; however, this particular dance party stood out as a magical moment. At morning meeting, the hosts of the rave stood up to personally invited the entire camp to attend the event. They used their free time to buy refreshments, gather decorations, and prepare the room where the dance was to be held. Wanting me to know that they were following all camp policies, they informed me that they had secured staff chaperones. When the activity time was about to end, the students in charge asked everyone to help clean up and put the room back in order. 


It was fun and gratifying for me to watch the students put these kinds of life skills—skills they had learned both in class and during their residential time at camp—to work. It was an example of student engagement at its finest. 

I can’t wait to see what next summer will bring!

Marissa Greuel is a WCATY outreach specialist, an instructor in its online Academy, and its summer site coordinator.