KIDS University Educates the Next Generation of College Graduates
Weeklong camps on the University campus develop confidence and challenge students to pursue experiences beyond their “comfort zones”
Each summer hundreds of students in second through eighth grade engage in hands-on learning and recreational activities on the University of Nevada, Reno campus as part of KIDS University, offered in seven weeklong sessions this summer from June 16 to Aug. 1.
While they're learning, playing and developing friendships, they're also getting a taste of campus life.
"The kids are all over campus, in college classrooms where they may attend classes someday, getting experience of how a university works, its equipment, technology. They look so confident," longtime KIDS U instructor Tari Sealy said. "Each summer I see kids who were my students from three or four years ago becoming KIDS U junior counselors. It's a wonderful experience."
Andrea Gregg, KIDS U "Health Care Heroes" instructor and director for High Sierra Area Health Education Centers agrees. "These kids are doing hands-on activities in our health care class they normally wouldn't be able to do until med school or nursing school."
"As part of Health Care Heroes we also take kids every summer to Renown to see how a hospital works. Our KIDS U class is a great marriage between a small nonprofit and the University that benefits the community, the University, and especially the kids," Gregg said. "And the social aspect is great - we're taking kids out of their comfort zones."
The confidence to experience the world outside her comfort zone has shaped University junior Lexi Robertson's approach to education and to life. Robertson spent every summer from second to seventh grade at KIDS University and then returned as a high school student to lead and to teach kids as a KIDS U junior counselor and later as a counselor.
"When you're a leader at KIDS U, there's a lot of pressure," Robertson said. "As a counselor all these kids look up to you and depend on you, and the leadership role forces you out of your comfort zone. That experience made it easy for me to leave my comfort zone to study abroad."
Last summer Robertson studied abroad in San Sebastián, Spain, through the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC). This summer she will study in Puntarenas, Costa Rica with USAC. In Spain, her KIDS U background informed her experience in some unexpected ways.
"When I was in Spain I taught English privately to two kids at their family home," Robertson said. "I modeled my teaching after the classes I'd taken as a camper and assisted in as a counselor. We did lots of interactive activities instead of just sitting at a table talking. I got them really involved in the kinds of activities I enjoyed doing as a student: We'd play games, throw a ball, engage in a project, have active conversations."
Robertson is an environmental engineering major at the University and also works to connect employers and job seekers in her position at the University's College of Business Student Outreach Center, where she helps run the Career Navigator database. She says making connections on campus has been second nature to her since attending KIDS U.
"Growing up in KIDS U, you get really close to the other kids. Campers come back year after year and you find out what classes they're in and switch so you can be with them. I had a lot of friends at KIDS U who lived in Reno but who went to different schools," Robertson said.
"And the counselors were such kind, enthusiastic, great people. I wanted to be like them and to see them again each summer. All of the people KIDS U chooses as counselors are bright, have strong goals and are committed to working with kids. It was so easy choosing the University when the time came because I already had so many friends here."
In addition to the relationships she developed at KIDS U, Robertson said it was the variety of the camp that she loved: the combination of interactive educational activities, games and athletics made each day a new adventure in a place that felt, to her, like a second home.
"I fell in love with the University campus at KIDS U," Robertson said. "I was here every day so it became like home. I just had so many great memories on campus from KIDS U - it's a huge part of the reason I ended up here. It was really exciting growing up on campus and will make my degree that much more meaningful."
For more information or to register for camp, visit the KIDS University website or call 775-784-4062 or 1-800-233-8928.