Summer enrichment programs combine fun, learning

By Lilo Wolfe and Paula Howland
Summer is a time for doing things you love. That’s certainly true for Rappahannock students who have used their summer for educational enrichment while having fun.

Huck Pace, a senior at RCHS, was recommended for a summer experience as a youth ambassador with People to People. Huck went through an application process, raised funds and chose a program that sent him to the United Kingdom. He found that being an ambassador to the U.K. was rewarding on many levels.

“I met lots of nice people, learned about a fantastic culture and have a greater appreciation for American food,” he said.

The People to People Ambassador Programs offer a variety of educational journeys. Depending on the program, academic credit and service-learning hours are available. Students return more prepared for the college application process and independent living.

Huck described his experience this way:

“After arriving in London, England, my East Coast group joined with another group from Orange County, Calif. We traveled in the U.K. for 19 days. The journey included lots of sightseeing and small adventures like mind over body training in Wales. These lessons included rappelling down a 100-foot tower and breaking boards. (We could probably imagine knights training in the same way.) Then we crossed the Irish Sea to Ireland where we did a home stay with Irish families.” (

Tyler Crews, a senior at RCHS, is a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar. This scholarship enabled him to participate in a number of summer academic experiences. He said he has found this very helpful as he decides which field he wants to pursue and which college to attend.

“Last year I did the LeadAmerica camp at DePaul University in Chicago,” Tyler said. “Through its medicine and health care program I toured the Rosalind Franklin medical school. I learned about health care, how to perform a checkup, and the proper use of a stethoscope. I also watched a surgical procedure via live-feed.” (

Taylor Light has been featured in this paper and we learned about her experience traveling to Europe with students from across the nation. She was chosen based on a nomination from band directors at the state level.

“The Sound of America Band and Chorus Summer Program tours Europe while stretching the talents of its performers and exposing members of all cultures to each other through the language of the arts,” she said.

School guidance departments receive literature about summer opportunities and serve as a resource for students to tap. They have learned about local medical camps or internships offered in Fauquier County and at the Culpeper Medical Center. Last summer Danny Collins, an eighth grader, followed in the footsteps of some upperclassmen and attended “Camp Med.” As with Tyler, these local experiences can inspire students to pursue a career in the medical professions.

Fabian and his brother Philip von Feilitzsch attended the Great Books Summer Program at Amherst this past summer (

They participated in Socratic discussions based on literature. Posing and debating questions without always answering them can lead to “critical thinking that intrigues students.” There are electives students choose to participate in for another part of the day. This program also requires an application and a nomination from a teacher. Philip is in the seventh grade at RCES this year and described his experience:

“Great Books is truly a unique experience that I have had in no other place yet.

“The Socratic Seminars allowed us to discuss ideas we had never considered. We analyzed different types of literature in entirely new ways. Living on a college campus was a bonus to me because we were treated more like young adults. I would definitely recommend it.”

The Virginia’s Governor’s Schools program is probably the most competitive for applicants.

Academically advanced students begin to apply in November. Those interested in the visual and performing arts have to go through an adjudication process at prearranged meeting places throughout the state. In the following months students may apply for mentorships, Schools for the Humanities, Math and Science, or a Foreign Language Academy, all jointly provided by the state and local public or private schools.

Last summer, Tiffany Wayland attended the Governor’s School for Agriculture at Virginia Tech.

“I spent the month of July taking classes in Agricultural Leadership, Agricultural Economics, Plant Science, Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine. It was an amazing experience,” she said. “There were lots of hands on activities at the barns and in labs involving animals. We toured the Va Tech barns, the Smithfield Plantation and the Kentland Plantation. I loved spending time with all of the people I met from across the state. There was always something to do, so we were never bored.

Our last featured Governor’s School attendee is Jacob Williams, another senior at RCHS. His peers and teachers supported his application to the Foreign Language Academy. Jacob used Spanish at work, attended Spanish-speaking churches, watched Hispanic stations on television and used the Spanish version of the Internet.

To be accepted, Jake filled out an application, wrote an essay, obtained referrals and submitted a tape recording of his response to questions.

He was RCHS’ first member of the Foreign Language Academy in Richmond at VCU. The academy has language immersion programs running three weeks in Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Russian, Latin, Arabic and Chinese.

“I am grateful that I had the opportunity to attend the Virginia Governor’s Spanish Academy,” Jacob said. “Through intensive coursework and great teachers we improved our proficiency in the Spanish language. Our activities included presentations, movies, sports, dances, great food, field trips, and daily classes. These three weeks in Richmond mark some of my most enjoyable times, and it is something I will remember the rest of my life.”

We all agree that summer enrichment activities provide life-changing opportunities. Mark Twain said it well:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Lilo Wolfe is Rappahannock schools’ gifted education specialist; Paula Howland runs the school system’s Headwaters-supported Next Step college and career access program.

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