High school students enjoy immersive pre-college experience at Conn
On a seasonably hot mid-July day in Conn’s Blaustein 213, members of the Venture Incubator Summer@Conn program listen intently as they learn about Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economic Theory. Meanwhile, less than 100 yards away, high schoolers participating in the Dance Intensive program are moving their way through a remix of Britney Spears’ seminal classic “Toxic,” led by Conn’s company-in-residence David Dorfman Dance.
The students, rising 9th-12th graders hailing from as far away as Richards, California, and as close as Groton, Connecticut (just across the Thames River from campus), were the first to participate in Conn’s inaugural Summer@Conn pre-college programs. The immersive two-week residential programs allow high school students to explore their passions, collaborate with experienced faculty and current Conn students, and live and learn on Conn’s beautiful waterfront arboretum campus to get an early feel for the residential liberal arts college experience.
Zach Zaurov, who participated in Global Focus, a third Summer@Conn program offered later in July, said he relished the opportunity to spend a few weeks with like-minded students interested in learning about the relationship between pressing global issues and the role of diplomacy.
“I go to school with lots of smart people, but we’re not always interested in the same thing or want to be studying what we’re studying. Here everyone is so smart, and we all are really interested in talking about and learning about all of this,” he said.
The Global Focus program was led by Director of the Walter Commons for Global Studies and Engagement Melissa Ryan. Other teachers included Assistant Professor of Government and International Relations Eric Fleury, Assistant Director of the Walter Commons for Global Study and Engagement Lauren O’Leary and Associate Staff Director of the Toor Cummings Center for International Studies and the Liberal Arts Cara Masullo Ekwuabu. The Venture Incubator program, in which students had the opportunity to develop a business concept and explore strategies for bringing their venture to market, was led by Dean of Academic Support and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Economics Noel Garrett, while Professor of Dance David Dorfman ’81, founder of David Dorfman Dance, one of the most influential American modern dance companies, led a Dance Intensive program focused on technique and choreography.
“One of my biggest goals when creating Summer@Conn was to make sure that pre-college students would walk away from Conn with the same sense of awe and gratitude for the community that I did when I graduated,” Director of Summer Programs Ashlyn Healey ’20 explained. “The feedback from participants and parents, and, more importantly, the smiles, laughs and friendships shared and formed among participants prove to me that we absolutely provided participants with the true pre-Connecticut College experience.”
When they weren’t in the classroom or in the studio, the participants enjoyed recreational activities including tennis, swimming, bowling and kayaking on the Thames River (right from the boat launch on Conn’s campus), as well as summer camp staples like scavenger hunts, karaoke, water balloon fights, arts and crafts, and, of course, s’mores by the campfire. They also participated in a variety of skill-building workshops focused on college essay writing, interview preparation and networking, and learned more about the college admission process from the pros.
“It’s all been a lot of fun. Getting to know people, hanging out after [the coursework] ... I’m having fun,” said Venture Incubator participant Giovani Salazar, who marveled at the size of Conn’s campus and praised the “vibes” of his classmates, professor and counselors.
During a water break, Dance Intensive student Izzy Weissberg said the program lived up to its name. “It’s a lot of work, but worth it,” she said. “There’s something I just love about being surrounded by other dancers and just working at it all day.”
With the first Summer@Conn in the books, the participants are now ready to use their new skills and knowledge in their home communities, and Healey is excited about the program’s future.
“We are sharing Conn’s specialness with a whole new population, and I am confident that that population will continue to grow in the coming years.”