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Westminster Summer Challenge Camps

Summer Challenge Camps

By Brent Wilhite

You might call it a summer camp, but there wasn't any archery, campfires, or log cabins. No weenie roasts. No nature hikes. No campfire songs. This was summer camp--Westminster style.

Each year, as high school classes end and summer begins, teens face a number of activities to occupy those glorious sunny days. You can usually find a summer camp penned somewhere on family calendars. Sports, arts and crafts, and high adventure in the outdoors are just a few of the activities teens can explore at these camps. But what about exploring their future?

Last summer, a select group of teens from Utah and surrounding states took a big step toward their futures. They tried out careers and tested the waters of college life at the inaugural Summer Challenge Camps at Westminster.

High school sophomores, juniors, and seniors explored the worlds of finance or aviation, while building leadership skills in week-long summer camps. "I've never been to an aviation camp before," said Jared Scoggan, a sophomore at North Summit High School in Wanship, Utah. "It was a blast."

For Jared, the Aviation Challenge Camp fit right into his career goals. "I'd like to join the Air Force after I graduate from high school. Aviation seems interesting to me, like something I'd have fun doing," he said.

Career exploration was a key reason teens attended the camps, but it wasn't the only one. "Honestly--my parents wanted me to go," admitted Megan Harris, a senior at Copper Hills High School in West Jordan, Utah. "I'm going off to college in a year and they wanted me to get the whole 'dorm experience.' I'm not the summer-camp type of person," she said. "I've never even been to a summer camp before. I really didn't know what I was getting in to, but it really surprised me, 'cause it was a lot of fun."

Another teen, high school junior Ebony Page, thought the Finance Challenge Camp might offer some insight into the world of business. "I don't really have an interest in finance for a career," she explained, "but since I love money so much, and I love to shop a lot, I thought it would be good experience to learn about the businesses I give my money to. It was fun. I learned a lot about the stock market, which I knew nothing about."

Teens weren't the only ones hoping to gain something from the Summer Challenge Camps. "It was a good break," joked Ebony's mother, Carol Goode. "Please sign her up for next year," she laughed. Aside from the needed time off, Goode saw how the camp might help her daughter. "I really do keep an eye on the stock market. I have stock. I thought it would be important for Ebony to learn something about it, because she is very unrealistic with money," she admitted. "But when she came back, she was really excited to tell me the things she had learned."

Ebony's mother also saw the benefits teens can gain from living on campus for a week. "This is an excellent opportunity for young people to get that college experience. Maybe it will get kids to think that college is doable."

A college experience, in a fun camp atmosphere--what a perfect blend. But what do teens do at these camps? Most people are familiar with traditional summer camps, so let's compare the two.

For starters, nix the notion of staying in tents or log cabins. These campers spent a week in apartment-style residence halls. Even though the teens weren't camping out in the wilderness, the shift from living at home to living with others in a residence hall turned out to be quite an adjustment.

Megan learned that college life may be tougher than she thought. "My roommate was really nice, and the dorm was kept really clean," she said. "But I'm an only child, and I learned that I'm not really prepared to share everything with people," she confessed.

Instead of tying knots with ropes, Westminster campers pushed their limits in a challenging ropes course. An essential skill teens need throughout college and careers is the ability to work together. Think you could find this ability in a group of high school students who have never met before? Sure. No problem.

"The ropes course taught me a lot about teamwork," said Megan. "My whole finance team was at the bottom, holding the rope for me and taking up the slack. I'm not really the type of person who can work with a team, because it's always you picking up someone else's slack. But we didn't have to do that at the camp or the ropes course. It was fun, because everyone was on the same page."

There's something about climbing 40 feet in the air and walking on a tightrope that changes lives. "I'm afraid of heights to an extent," admitted Ebony. "So, when I looked up at how high the rope was, I thought, 'I'm not gonna do this.' I sat there and watched everyone else do it. Finally, I was about the last person to go. They all did it easily, so I thought I could do it. The experience taught me that I need to have more courage in myself," she explained. "If I think I can't do something, I should at least try before I give up."

Instead of trekking up to the top of a mountain, aviation campers flew high above the mountains. "Flying was my favorite part of the camp. I have never flown a plane before," explained Jared. "We took five or six planes and flew to Logan and had an ice cream party."

How many teens get the chance to take the stick of a Piper Archer airplane for a couple hours? "I don't know anyone my age who has flown planes, other than the students at camp," Jared said. "Flying was fun. We had the freedom to choose where we wanted to go fly, so I chose to come up and fly over my house. I called my parents and said 'look outside,'" he laughed.

Taking the controls of a plane for the first time fueled Jared's passion for flying and left him begging for more. "I'm definitely going to go to the camp next year," he affirmed. After talking with Aric Krause, acting dean of the school of business, Jared has already been accepted into the 2004 Aviation Challenge Camp.

Rather than learning how to navigate a map, campers in the Finance Challenge Camp learned how to navigate the stock markets. Very few, if any, teenagers have ever used such advanced financial technology as that found in the Center for Financial Analysis.

"We learned how to use a Reuters program," said Ebony. "I've been good at computers for a long time, but it was sort of hard to figure out what we had to do, and what the different stock graphs and tickers meant. It was really fun though, and it got easier the second day we did it."

One can understand why the technology might be difficult for teens to use. The powerful analytical tools allow users to completely immerse themselves in the fast-paced global financial markets. However, after campers like Ebony got a handle on the technology, she even played around customizing the data and changing colors on the charts and graphs.

Instead of taking nature hikes to marvel at the great outdoors, students took a variety of field trips to explore the wonders of business and aviation. Students in the Aviation Camp toured Salt Lake International Airport, and SkyWest Flight Operations; they even took a trip to the Hill Air Force Base Aerospace Museum. Finance campers gained clearance to tour the Federal Reserve Bank and the Zions Bank trading floor.

Millions of dollars electronically exchange hands each day on the trading floor at Zions Bank. While they were there, Richard Schwartz, a senior vice president at Zions Bank, addressed the teens about different finance careers, functions of a trading floor, and assorted aspects of the markets. "After the lecture, it was pretty cool that he took us out on the trading floor," grinned Ebony. "We got to talk to those people about what they do for their job and see the computer screens and all that they can do."

Even though weenie roasts, nature hikes, and campfire songs were absent from this summer camp, they weren't missed. Instead, they were replaced with activities, lessons, and insight that provided these students with a glimpse of their futures. They know a little bit more about potential careers. They know a little bit more about college life. But perhaps most important, they know a lot more about themselves and whom they can become. I'll sing to that. Kumbaya.