2017-07-16 / News

Imlay City program eases students into high school

810-452-2601 • npugliese@mihomepaper.com

IMLAY CITY — The prospect of heading into high school can be a stressful one. But for some students in Imlay City Schools’ Camp Overdrive, a little help can go a long way toward a successful acclimation to a new educational setting.

“It’s the fifth year that we’ve ran it,” said Imlay City High School math teacher and Camp Overdrive team member Kristen Swejkowski. “Coming into the high school is super scary for a lot of people and we try to help the students get involved.”

Camp Overdrive is a two-week long “camp” held at the Imlay City Middle School building July 17-28 that is focused on providing students who will be entering ninth grade in the autumn a chance to sharpen their mathematics skills while learning to increase their self-esteem, confidence and social abilities. To accomplish this, Swejkowski, along with three other high school teachers — Katie Dye, Chad Halsted and Josh Gates — enlist the aid of a handful of current high school students that will be seniors come September. These older students are the camp’s “mentors” and work with the younger students to build connections that will last well after the camp is concluded.

The camp’s attendees are typically students that scored below average in math during the previous school year and are identified as those who may benefit from the extra two weeks of math education provided by Camp Overdrive. According to Swejkowski, the idea for the program was crafted around a comparable program employed by Wayne State University. “They have something similar and our first year (of Camp Overdrive) we went out there and spent a day with them to see how they ran things,” said Swejkowski. “We came up with our own curriculum but the program was modeled after theirs.”

For this year’s camp, Swejkowski and her team will be teaching 22 incoming ninth-grade students with the help of 11 soon-to-be-senior mentors. These older students go through an application process and according to Swejkowski they pick mentors “that are really involved with sports or band or other activities so they can help get the younger kids involved too.”

Each day of camp begins at 7:30 a.m. During the camp, younger students will have a math lesson in the morning followed by activities that illustrate the “hands-on” applications of that math. Two younger students are paired with a mentor to go through the activities.

“Seniors do a lot of the mentoring and we do the teaching,” said Swejkowski. “They learn how to work together and trust one another to accomplish tasks.” As part of their participation in Camp Overdrive, younger students receive a T-shirt, a calculator and meals, including breakfast, lunch and a snack.

The entirety of the camp is paid for through state funding, including a field trip to Camp Ligon in Clio, where students enjoy a low ropes course. Mentors are also compensated for their work, and the entire experience is free for the younger attendees.

“We take that big trip (to Camp Ligon) on the second Monday and the last Friday we have what we call a graduation,” said Swejkowski. “Parents, friends and family can come and watch a picture slideshow presentation and we hand out awards.” Administrators from the district attend, and the senior mentors also prepare speeches in honor of their younger cohort to celebrate the success of completing the camp.

“The first day or two the kids tend to be very shy but soon after they come out of their shell,” Swejkowski said of the younger students who attend Camp Overdrive. “We get them to come out of their comfort zones a lot. It’s a very packed two weeks.”

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