Nine Harrisonburg High School students got a feel for campus life at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) and plenty of laughs through a summer day camp hosted by the Intensive English Program (IEP). The students, who all speak Spanish as a first language and are enrolled in English learner classes in high school, spent three weeks this July playing games and responding to discussion topics in English.
The goal of the camp was to provide a fun and educational experience “so they could practice using both conversational and academic English in an immersive environment, and to expose those students to IEP and a college campus, specifically EMU,” said Jeremy Samsoe, who recently stepped into the role of program director for IEP.
Samsoe said the camp was a brainchild of the previous director, Karen Suderman, who worked with EMU’s admissions department and Laura Feichtinger McGrath GC ’18, director of English learner services and Title III at Harrisonburg City Public Schools, to bring it to fruition.
“The students really valued the relationships with the camp leaders, student Abby Olmstead and Rachel Sauder ’21, and the opportunity to use English in an authentic yet lower pressure environment than school,” Samsoe said.
The students, ranging from 9th to 12th graders, wrote that their favorite parts of the camp were indeed meeting the camp leaders, as well as playing sports in the gym, playing games that helped them practice English, and seeing their friends.
“My favorite part was when we went to the gym to play dodgeball,” said sophomore Ana Pereira.
Volleyball, basketball, and the card game Uno (uno being the only word they were allowed to say in Spanish – other slip ups resulted in a two-card penalty, which was gleefully enforced by the other students) were also favored activities.
The camp also included a campus tour, whimsical writing prompts (if you could spend one month anywhere in the world or one day on the moon, what would you choose and why?), and a scavenger hunt.
“I think the exposure to the university was also valuable. One student even told the leaders that she wants to go to EMU after she graduates,” said Samsoe.