Severn Young and Erick Quintanilla, both 13 years old, have attended the Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) at the University of Northern Colorado for the past two years. Both currently go to the same school in Colorado and have become close friends. I recently had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with them to dialogue about their experiences at camp. Hearing two seventh grade boys talk about how life-changing SEP has been made me recognize how critical camps like this are. The right environment and support for both the cognitive and social-emotional needs of our gifted, talented and creative students can, in fact, alter the trajectory of lives.
Here’s a compilation of my favorite comments from Severn and Erick:
What makes SEP powerful are the surroundings, the interesting classes and the teachers! In my Zombies Attack class, we got to use our imagination and explore what it might truly be like to face an apocalypse. The teachers are all different from one another, but that’s what makes it so interesting. Unlike school, there are no bullies at SEP. Every one treats you like you want to be treated. My favorite class was a philosophy class and a Freaky Poetry Slam class. Everyone at SEP is so understanding. They’re in the same shoes as you. I learned that when I put my mind to something, I can achieve it. My favorite class was a Musical Recording Studio. I felt so welcomed. It really surprised me how nice everyone was. I expected them to be like other kids at school, but that wasn’t the case. These kids understand. SEP makes you want to go out and change the world and make it a better place. I learned that if you’re really passionate about what you’re doing, nothing can get in your way!
When I asked them what advice they might offer to a new camper and/or someone who might be considering the Summer Enrichment Program, they offered this:
If you’re considering it, but aren’t sure, follow your instincts. You’ll realize later that coming to SEP was a great decision! You’ll change the way you look at things; you’ll change for the better. Parents should know that it’s really safe. We’re always supervised. And if someone’s shy, they shouldn’t worry about making friends. Everyone here is accepting.
Finally, when I asked these two to give me three adjectives or descriptors that best depicted SEP, Severn responded, “Astonishing, great and fun.” Erick said, “Fun, exciting, better than anyone can expect.” Severn added, “I would recommend it because it’s the most amazing experience I’ve had as a kid; I couldn’t be ‘me’ without it.” How’s that for life changing?