June 17, 2011
Claudia Macri is taking classes on a college campus this week, and she’s still in seventh grade.
Macri is one of the estimated 538 Central Ohio Middle School students to attend the 30th annual Ohio Wesleyan Junior League camp, a three-week-long scholastic workshop program for advanced and gifted sixth, seventh and eighth graders. The camp began June 12 and will end July 1.
The students attend for one week at a time, staying in dorm buildings on the Ohio Wesleyan University campus, eating in campus cafeterias and attending classes in university academic halls as well as neighboring community buildings.
Participants in the OWjL camp attend four classes a day, with scheduled time for meals and recreation before, between and after classes. More than 100 courses in various topics of the arts and sciences were available for students to choose from. Special events are scheduled for each evening of the week, including a semi-formal dance and a private movie night at the Strand Theatre.
Susan Paxton, executive director of the OWJL program, said the objective of the camp is to service the gifted student population by encouraging creativity, leadership and academic achievement. With many schools scaling back gifted learning programs, Paxton said it is crucial to show today’s students that it’s “OK to be smart.”
“I receive letters every year from parents saying ‘you sent me home a different child,’” Paxton said.
Although the program was initially founded by the Junior League of Columbus with the Ohio State University in mind as a long-term location, Paxton said Ohio Wesleyan serves as the ideal home of the camp due to the university’s size, setting, and atmosphere.
“It’s a small campus that is very supportive,” Paxton said. “(OWU staff) can see the kids are benefiting from this tremendously.”
Ohio Wesleyan staff and various members of the community have contributed to making the 2011 OWJL program a success, Paxton said. Delaware lawyers have volunteered to advise students during mock trial classes and Delaware County Fairground officials have allowed student-built model rockets to be fired off on their premises.
“There are so many volunteers from the community who help us,” Paxton said. “The whole community of Delaware embraces the camp.”
One such member of the community is Mary Williams, a retired high-school art teacher who has taught art classes with the OWJL for 10 years. After teaching at Harding High School, Williams began teaching courses at the Arts Castle. She said she became involved with the OWJL after hearing about the program from fellow area teachers.
“They just have a reputation here in town as being an outstanding organization to work for,” Williams said.
Williams said she enjoys the experience of teaching classical art techniques, including Japanese sumi-e painting, to gifted students.
“It’s wonderful. They’re so enthusiastic,” Williams said. “You give them an idea and they just go with it.”
Macri, a seventh-grader at Willis Middle School in Delaware who attends Williams’ “Art of Japan” class, said she has enjoyed her experiences during her first week at the OWJL camp.
“I’ve really liked it so far,” Macri said. “I hope I can do it next year.”
Other classes Macri attends include courses on watercolor painting and computerized music composition. In addition to her varied class schedule, Macri said she also enjoys the experience of living in a college dorm and sharing her space with another student.
“I think it’s pretty fun,” Macri said. “You get to experience college, what it would be like having a roommate and making new friends.”