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O’Dowd Summer Academy Hits the Mark

<img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-13948 lazyload" src="" alt="summer_academy_group" width="700" height="400" srcset=" 700w, 300w" sizes="(max-width: 700px) 100vw, 700px" />

Students attending Bishop O’Dowd High School’s retooled Summer Academy for middle schoolers not only had the opportunity to study, learn new skills and have fun. They had a chance to engage in meaningful community time with their peers and counselors, essentially experiencing campus as an O’Dowd student.

Dragon Community Time – a one-hour program that provided a safe space for students to work in small groups around topics that fostered inclusivity and well-being – was introduced this summer. Guided by trained adults and teen camp counselors, students had the opportunity to explore topics such as social media, inclusion and mindfulness with the goals of staying healthy, maintaining positive social practices and respectfully engaging in the world around them.

The program was crafted to intentionally reflect O’Dowd’s charism – core values. These include Community in Diversity, Strength of Character, Academic Excellence, Kinship With Creation, Social Justice, and Joy. Such framing allowed for a very unique growth experience for students Summer Academy Principal Jase Turner said.

Nearly 50 O’Dowd faculty and staff served as instructors for the academic and enrichment classes, including current varsity coaches who headed the sports classes.

The nearly a dozen teen camp counselors were all O’Dowd students, mostly rising seniors, who went through a rigorous application process that included submitting a resume and teacher recommendations and sitting for an interview. They also participated in a three-day orientation/training.

New middle school courses introduced this year included 3-D Modeling and Animation, Brain Games, Reading the Write Way, Doing Good, and Sports Medicine.

Doing Good was modeled on curriculum from the San Francisco-based non-profit – The Forgotten International (Compassion Education Project) – and focused on positive actions students can take locally, regionally and nationally. “Its purpose is to encourage young people to care for others and work to make the world a better place,” Turner said.

<img class="size-full wp-image-13949 alignleft lazyload" src="" alt="bball" width="350" height="525" srcset=" 350w, 200w" sizes="(max-width: 350px) 100vw, 350px" />Based on survey feedback, the middle school students’ families were quite pleased with the program and many are now seriously considering O’Dowd for high school. “Thank you so much for running such a great program. Our daughter fell in love with O’Dowd and is super excited at the thought of being an O’Dowd student,” commented one parent.

Middle School program lead Hillary Kigar explained that students started the day with two academic sessions, had lunch, and then participated in Dragon Community Time before moving on to sports or art offerings.

Each day was built around a theme, which was introduced in a skit created by the counselors. Students then broke into small groups for discussions, where they had the opportunity to delve deeper on the topic. Sometimes, games or larger group activities were incorporated. “This structure created an intentional space where all the middle school students – regardless of what classes they were taking – could be together,” Kigar said.

The nice thing about O’Dowd’s middle school Summer Academy is that it offers something for everyone, Turner said. “Many other camps have specific focuses, like art, or are strictly academic or athletic,” he said. “Ours offers a broad range of options.”

About 270 middle school students participated in the two two-week sessions offered during July.

Registration for Summer Academy 2018 will begin in February 2018.

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