Two-week program challenged middle schoolers, showed them futures with college
GARY, Ind. — Two weeks. That’s how long approximately 60 middle school students spent participating in Indiana University Northwest’s Kids College.
It’s not a long period, but what those students accomplished from June 5-16 was nothing short of remarkable. The simulated college experience put students into five tracks — business, medical, robotics, coding and theatre & arts — representing the five colleges and schools at IU Northwest.
Few of the students had any experience in their respective track but, over two weeks, each group identified real-world problems in their community and created a solution to solve those issues.
The business students developed start-up businesses with a website, logo, commercial and pitch to present to a panel of “Shark Tank” judges with the first- and second-place winners receiving initial funding to begin their business; the medical students built a prosthesis, which helped Kona, a three-legged yorkie, walk by herself; the robotics students built and programmed robots to help clean up litter from the shores of Lake Michigan; the coding students created an app allowing for students to vote on healthy and tasty school lunches to help combat food waste; and the theatre students put together a 3-minute interpretive dance which, in addition to the other projects, was highlighted during a demonstration on the last day of the camp Friday, June 16.
“We feel like the students came to this unprepared for it and not knowing what it would entail and, through the two weeks, they stepped up in ways unimaginable for middle school students to step up,” said Anita Benna, associate professor in the School of Education and Kids College co-director. “They stepped into something and tried to make something that changes their community’s world and they did it.”
In addition to the classroom instruction, which was led by IU faculty, staff and experts in the Northwest Indiana community, each student earned their Junior Geek Squad Agent certificate through the two-day Best Buy Geek Squad Academy. The students also learned about college, from applying, being accepted and choosing a field of study, and were introduced to the 21st Century Scholars Program, which the state provides up to four years of undergraduate tuition and support to income-eligible students attending participating colleges or universities in Indiana.
“They really have really big dreams and I think they started to realize they did college,” Benna said of students completing the two-week program. “They realized they can do college, it was fun and they were good at it. That’s what our goal was to get them to understand.”