Getting ‘It’ Started
Summer Camps Opening Doors for RGV Youth
Young students participate in STC’s Robotics and Automation Summer Camp in this photo from 2019. This summer, students will choose from 28 programs encompassing basic skills, fitness, music, technology and more, with 70 total sessions available. Registration is as easy as signing up on the STC website.
You know when you have it … and you see it in successful people. But what, exactly, is “it”?
South Texas College’s Dr. Sandra Ledesma isn’t sure … but she knows “it” when she sees it. And when she engages with uninhibited young learners through her “Be the Boss Girl” summer camp, she sees it.
“You and me, we’re just trying to rediscover it,” says the Pecan Campus professor. “From 8 to 10 years old, they still have it. That’s the most critical age, because usually someone at school has [discouraged] them by then.”
Ledesma’s “Be the Boss Girl” camp is just one of two-dozen-plus youth sessions hosted each summer by South Texas College faculty. Touching on all manner of diverse topics, from sewing to cybersecurity, the STC Youth Camps represent a chance for under-18 students to break new barriers, ignite new passions … and ideally, find their “it.”
“The camps are designed to keep young minds sharp during the summertime,” says Dr. Rebecca De Leon, Dean of Dual Credit and School District Partnerships. “Our STC community can select a camp that fits their child’s interest and allow them to explore their curiosity, all while learning from college faculty.”
The Youth Camps project is part of South Texas College’s broader effort — including dual credit opportunities and early CTE access — to strengthen the bond with its K-12 communities. This summer, students will choose from 28 programs encompassing basic skills, fitness, music, technology and more, with 70 total sessions available. Registration is as easy as signing up on the STC website and showing up to class (either virtually or in person).
“They provide a terrific educational experience for young people,” says William Buhidar, STC Music Department Chair and director of the music-focused youth camps. “They break down any preconceived ideas of what a college course is like, and they allow students to take their first steps on an educational pathway to success.”
“The camps are designed to keep young minds sharp during the summertime. Our STC community can select a camp that fits their child’s interest and allow them to explore their curiosity, all while learning from college faculty.”
While the focus is always on fun, the summer camps provide valuable opportunities for exposure and character-building, allowing kids to take up a topic and run with it. In “Be the Boss Girl,” girls learn how to be comfortable expressing themselves, which promotes confidence while inspiring attendees to aim higher. In fact, the first thing “boss girls” do in the camp, according to Ledesma, is put on a favorite piece of clothing and bust a move for a class-wide “dance break.”
“It’s giving them permission to be themselves, not what someone else wanted them to be,” says the director. “Having self-confidence, understanding that you have all the tools you actually need to move forward and make decisions that’ll make you feel so much better.”
Likewise, in the music programs – such as Intermediate Guitar, Song Writing and Drumline – students get a sense of what it’s like to control their own destiny, whether in college or in a career.
“The music professors have designed the camps in a manner that is engaging and fun but also a solid learning experience,” says the instructor. “All in all, these music camps are a worthwhile investment of time and energy.”
With 28 distinct camps to choose from, the College strives to provide something for everybody. Career-minded students can get a leg up on the competition with early access to professions like drone flying, electrical engineering and biology. Meanwhile, sessions like “Adventure Camps” and “Your New Car” expose students to broader societal issues and prepare them for practical challenges.
And while students can pick up specific skills to last a lifetime, the camp coordinators are careful to keep the emphasis on “soft” outcomes like confidence, equity and individual empowerment.
By letting attendees choose an area of interest, and putting them in control of their experience, faculty coordinators are reminding students that they don’t have to follow a pre-set path to success. The result is engaged, energized instructors … and, well, happy campers.
“The eagerness on behalf of the students was evident throughout the camps held last summer,” says Buhidar, who recounts a story of a student who logged in from the backseat of her parents’ car, in transit, so she wouldn’t miss her guitar lesson. “Talk about dedication.”
Beginning with a handful of camps, STC’s summer offerings have grown to serve a large and diverse group of K-12 students. Even the health crisis, which forced last summer’s camps online, couldn’t crush the program’s momentum, thanks to the hard work and ingenuity of its faculty coordinators. This year, De Leon says, camps will be conducted in a flexible, hybrid format to assuage concerns for anyone hesitant to attend in person.
“The College has coordinated the Summer 2021 Youth Camps with safety in mind for our faculty, staff, and camp participants,” says De Leon. “Youth Camp students that select an in-person camp … can rest assured that the College is following all safety guidelines.”
For faculty leaders like Buhidar and Ledesma, the best part of the Youth Camps program is the long-term connections it allows students to make with their local college and community. Often, attendees will even track their instructors down years later to report the program’s impact.
“I’ve had 7th graders come back [as adults] and invite me for coffee,” Ledesma reflects. “They’ll say: ‘I did this because I remember what you told me.’”
South Texas College Youth Camps begin May 31 and run throughout the summer. To register, or to learn more, visit the STC Continuing Education website at southtexascollege.edu/youth-camps or call (956) 872-3585