Summer Scholars Institute fundraiser
What: Donate school supplies or money to purchase school supplies for students in need in Hall County and Gainesville schools
When: July 14
Where: Summer Scholars office at Gainesville State College, 3820 Mundy Mill Road, Gainesville
Contact: Robin Anyanwu, 678-717-3994 or email@example.com
Naomi Martinez wants to go to college one day and become a lawyer.
The 13-year-old South Hall Middle School student's journey toward law school began this summer with the Summer Scholars Institute at Gainesville State College in Oakwood.
"It's for minority groups and kids that might be at risk for dropping out of school," said Barbara Harkins, a math teacher at South Hall and the institute's lead teacher. "We want to show them that with a little bit of hard work, they can come to a college."
Students begin participating as rising eighth-graders. If they complete three summers at the institute, they earn half a unit of high school credit toward graduation.
Their daily coursework through the monthlong program includes instruction in math, language arts, science, social studies and physical education.
"It helps me to stay ahead," said Eleni Vincent, a rising ninth-grader at Johnson High School who was adopted from Africa. "I've learned a lot of things. I was having a hard time learning things, and now I can read all of these thick books, ‘Harry Potter' and ‘Twilight.'"
Shaerica Williford, 14, a rising eighth-grader at Westside Middle School in Barrow County, enjoys the math classes most.
"It's been fun to get out of the house," she said. "(Math) is easy for me and I get more help on it. Throughout life you have to do a lot of math, like in college and to get a job."
Martinez said the Civil War demonstration in her social studies class included lessons in loading a gun, setting up a tent and surviving off of hardtack, a simple cracker.
Interactive learning is something Harkins said the institute prides itself upon to make the program more than a summer school.
"Anything hands-on is good because it's different," said Sarah Cole, a math teacher at South Hall who is working at the institute. "Especially when you get to middle grades, it's a lot of ‘Here's a problem, now let's move on.' People don't think middle grades need the hands-on anymore."
Martinez and Williford got some hands-on experience of their own Thursday, making butter and buttermilk in their science class to learn about chemical and physical changes.
"It tastes good, like butter, but with a milky flavor," Vivian Orrego, 13, said of her group's buttermilk. She, like most of her classmates, had never tried buttermilk or made butter.
New experiences, such as making butter, are just a few of the opportunities awaiting students in the institute. Rising 10th-graders in the program went to the Hall County Crime Scene Investigation unit Thursday to job shadow, and at the end of the year students all go to Six Flags.
Harkins said it costs between $800 and $900 for students to go to the institute, but the students do not have to pay. Summer Scholars is funded through donors and supported by members of the Gainesville State community, including President Martha Nesbitt.
In order to pay back the sponsors for their generosity, Harkins said students participate in a fundraiser each year. This year's is raising money to purchase school supplies for Gainesville and Hall County students in need.
Robin Bates, a Spanish teacher at South Hall and the DaVinci Academy, is teaching language arts and science at the institute this year. She said she hopes to instill lessons other than content in her students, such as critical thinking skills and the ability to work in a team.
"You have something to do in the summer and the teachers get you back on track with things you forget," Martinez said. "And I get to see what college looks like."