WISE-1[1]Those who have been around Clemson’s main campus this summer may have noticed that the students are looking a little younger. That’s because Clemson University plays host to more than 80 programs geared toward middle and high school students from June through mid-August.

Participants come from all over the country to attend these summer camps with offerings ranging from athletics to traditional camps to extension camps to academics. While many students may not connect the concept of “fun” with an academic camp, these camps are, in fact, fun. And they make an impact in the participants’ lives.

Serita Acker, who runs both We Do Math and Project WISE, and Amber Lange, who manages the Emerging Scholars program, can attest to the undeniable positive impacts their camps are making. Their camps are not only training future generations of scholars for their academic careers, but also giving them valuable life skills.

Both We Do Math (for rising 9th and 10th graders) and Project WISE (for rising 6th, 7th and 8th graders) build confidence and provide encouragement in young girls in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) academic fields.

“Math is a gateway into most careers, especially in STEM,” said Acker. “In We Do Math, we talk about having confidence. The camps are a collaborative and holistic learning experience for girls to become engaged in STEM academics. We Do Math, which focuses on building confidence in math communication, also prepares participants with having them take a practice SAT to help them do better when it comes to taking the SAT. Project WISE, which focuses on all of the STEM fields and is funded by Duke Energy, pairs participants with a female STEM mentor, a current Clemson STEM major, who stays in the dorm and acts as a role model throughout the week.”

The Emerging Scholars program, another camp making a huge impact on Clemson’s campus, is helping kids realize their full potential. The program, which takes students from five different high schools in three counties of the lowcountry in South Carolina (Allendale, Bamberg and Hampton), educates and encourages students from those counties to not only graduate, but also to reach their goals of higher education.

Beginning in their sophomore year, participants come to Clemson’s campus and stay for one week, with a week added as they progress to their junior and senior years. Students take part in classes and activities that reinforce academics, teach college preparedness, leadership skills and even guidance for parents through the Parent Awareness Weekend (PAW). The students who attend the Emerging Scholars program come from severely impoverished areas of South Carolina, from schools that lack the adequate resources for them to succeed past high school.

“We don’t even talk about graduating high school,” said Lange. “When we first meet the students, we are sometimes the first person to ask them where they are going for college, because they’ve really never had that conversation before.”

Lange says the program is unique because they are not just recruiting students to attend Clemson. Emerging Scholars takes participants on tours to numerous universities in the time they are in the program. Lange says there are usually several that do end up attending Clemson, but they have students attend universities and colleges all across the state.

“We just want them to go where they will be successful, even if that isn’t Clemson. No matter where they go to college, we are here to help,” Lange explained.

After participating in the program in high school, becoming a program advisor and now serving as the new assistant director, Jason Combs uses his personal experience to help other students coming through the program.

“The Emerging Scholars program definitely helped me to come out of my shell. It helped me to experience things I probably would not have experienced and also gave me skills I wouldn’t have attained elsewhere. I knew how much the program helped me, so I wanted to be that help for other students,” he said.

Program organizers work hard to instill a sense of expectation in the students, and to change the culture of poverty in the three counties.

“Some of these high schools have a 30 percent drop-out rate, but we have a 100 percent graduation rate for the kids that go through this program,” said Lange. “I’m just showing students their opportunities and they’re taking them. Some of our students come and you can just tell that we are raising their expectations. Some might think everyone has given up on them, but we are here to show them that isn’t the case.”

Ashley Hall, Class of 2015