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Hundreds of AZ students are college ready, thanks to ASU summer camps


Young woman in a mask in front of a laptop with a Zoom screen visible on the wall behind her.

Access ASU summer camps reached 726 middle and high schoolers in June and July.

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September 01, 2021

College readiness, career inspiration and Sun Devil pride were on full display at the nine Access ASU summer camps that reached 726 middle and high schoolers in June and July. 

Every summer, GEAR UP, Clubes de Ciencia, Poly Summer Leadership Academy, Summer Experience at West, Inspire, Barrett Summer Scholars, First Star, the César E. Chávez Leadership Institute and the RISE Leadership Institute share resources and information that students need to be prepared for college financially, socially and academically. 

For the past two years, the format was adapted to a virtual environment, but in previous years, the events ranged from day camps to residential college experiences, which allow students to live on campus for a week. All participants get a taste of campus life while also receiving hands-on instruction in both academics and college readiness. Faculty, community and ASU student support helps make the camps enriching experiences that students don’t soon forget. 

Current ASU student Emilia Bañuelos, a speech and hearing sciences and family and human development major, was a 2016 César E. Chávez Leadership Institute participant. After her experience at the camp, she said she was inspired to serve as a facilitator.

“When I saw that Access ASU was hiring summer mentors for various programs, including (César E. Chávez Leadership Institute), I applied within the hour because these programs not only create leaders but a supportive community,” Bañuelos said. 

She remembers her time at the César E. Chávez Leadership Institute fondly. What particularly stuck out was learning to avoid making assumptions, how first impressions matter and the power of a firm handshake. Bañuelos said that the camp helped her realize all the opportunities that ASU students have to make a difference in the community. 

“Attending these programs sets you in motion to be a high-achieving student, a leader in your community,” she said. 

Post-event surveys confirm that participants leave with tremendous knowledge and inspiration about what it takes to get to college and what fields they want to consider.  Surveys reveal it’s nearly unanimous that respondents feel prepared and confident in the steps they need to take to prepare for college, to pay for college and to prepare for the admissions process. 

Applications open in December for the 2022 programs. Camps are available at all four ASU campuses and involve a variety of hands-on coursework and training in leadership, engineering, critical thinking, electives, financial aid presentations and much more. Tours of the four unique campuses and tips about ASU resources, such as me3, an online tool that helps students connect their interests to future careers and fields of study, are also included.

One Barrett Summer Scholars participant said that they were excited for the work and also the information about becoming a Sun Devil. 

“Barrett Summer Scholars was an amazing experience because I learned so much in my classes, and I also learned about ASU as a school. I would like to go to ASU someday, (and I enjoyed) seeing the campus through the virtual tours. I am so glad that I got to attend Barrett Summer Scholars, and I hope I get to next year,” they wrote. 

Access ASU’s summer camps serve many Arizona students, and recruitment includes special outreach to first-generation and underrepresented students. Scholarships are available for all camps and summer programs.The camps all offer scholarships.

Summer Experience at West is a program at ASU’s West campus that was launched by Jose E. Náñez Sr., ASU President’s Professor of psychology, to help prepare students for college life, inspired by his own experience of having no role models as a Mexican American student. 

Video courtesy of Educational Outreach and Student Services

Chaparral High School junior Renee Hsu was a Summer Experience at West participant in 2021 who appreciated being surrounded by people who had similar interests and motivation.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my professors, who have incredible experience and an amazing amount of knowledge that I am so grateful that they were willing to share with us,” she said. 

Some of the academic topics covered at Summer Experience at West included neuroscience, law, forensics and STEM.

The Poly Summer Leadership Academy is usually held on ASU’s Polytechnic campus in Mesa, and the virtual event in 2021 included panel discussions led by ASU students and faculty, in addition to college-level academic content on attachment, psychotherapy, education and sustainability.  

One survey respondent said that they especially appreciated the tips to get motivated and establish good habits. 

“I received so much information, resources and instruction about getting to college, picking my major, finding my niche in life, earning scholarships and helping me build a career path with a solid set of goals,” they said. “Poly Summer Leadership Academy truly was a major stepping stone to creating future leaders of all different types of backgrounds wherever they may go.”

Marcelino Quiñonez, Access ASU director of community outreach and partnerships, said that this year’s camps showed the resilience and motivation of the next generation of college students.

“The resources to get to college are out there, and the talent of Arizona students is something that always inspires us,” Quiñonez said. “ASU has so much to offer students to inspire and assist them in being college ready, and seeing these students’ persistence after the learning disruptions we’ve seen is simply amazing.”

Something that is emphasized at each camp, aside from getting into college and exploring majors, is the idea of creating leaders and people who can improve their communities. As an alum of the César E. Chávez Leadership Institute, Bañuelos saw that idea come full circle in the students who led at the camp this year. 

“My biggest takeaway from being a summer program leader was seeing the programs transform students into student leaders. I thought it was amazing how in only a week, students who were shy were leading the conversation,” Bañuelos said. “These programs are an amazing opportunity to learn more about ASU and prepare you for greatness. When you do attend the wonderful Access ASU programs, do not be afraid to put yourself out there.”

Registration for 2022 camps begins in December. Follow Access ASU on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates when applications open.

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