April 22, 2018

Guest column

It’s never too late for a CVU summer connection

May 26, 2011

By Duncan Wardwell


The Champlain Valley Union High School summer camp provides many ways for CVU students to create positive connections to their educational environment. For more than 12 years, the camp has connected incoming ninth-graders with academics, clubs, sports, and CVU culture. Current and former CVU students serve as counselors to challenge campers to develop high school attitudes. The CVU summer camp illustrates how high school students may experience success in a variety of ways.

The process always begins in the winter when parents and students attend the eighth grade parent night to learn about CVU and the camp. I talk to groups of parents in core classrooms and a few experienced counselors answer student questions at four corners.

We want to prompt students to create a good first impression. Everyone wants to make new friends and know the layout of the school.

Families are encouraged to register as early as possible so I can coordinate counselors for interest area activities; however there are no deadlines on when students can join the camp. I joke with parents that they can register up until the last day of camp. I remove obstacles that might interfere with a good connection, and coordinate transportation and scholarship support. I’d rather have a student make a small connection rather than no connection at all.

The camp implements a variety of ways to cascade learning between new and current CVU students. Incoming ninth graders sign up for interest area groups led by counselors and CVU staff. Counselors serve as mentors for campers to develop high school skills. Last year, Anthony Jordick completed his CVU graduation challenge project based on personal experiences as a camper and counselor. He created a handbook for students to utilize during the summer and school year.

Jordick said: “Lessons about making friends, managing your time, and using the resources available to you are all things that we can learn from, as an adult and a learner. Making connections with the school is equally as important.”

André LaChance, a CVU English teacher for 22 years, challenges summer academy campers to know their teachers.

“It’s nice because I work in an informal way with a small group,” he said. “We talk about life at high school as a student, and we learn strategies for success. I also challenge them to interpret literature and write with revision techniques.”

The activities at the camp provide the initial connection but it often expands into the fall, winter, and spring.

“I often see them later in my English classes or help advisors and teachers plan for success,” LaChance said.

All interest area choices provide ways for campers to orchestrate success at CVU. The students that sign up for CY CVU explore how to improve personal assets through clubs, sports, and other extracurricular activities. Campers choose ways to connect to CVU with a technological, artistic, or athletic talent. LaChance also observes how counselors implement skills that transcend CVU.

“I mentor counselors as they facilitate a community environment,” he said. “The campers already feel ownership of their building and their decisions before walking off buses in September. We hand-select a talented group of counselors.”

The counselors learn how to implement CVU skills to the world in front of them.

Ellen Snyder explained, “As an experienced counselor, I really enjoy planning lessons, acquiring materials, and teaching art skills that allow a camper’s creativity to flourish.”

The counselors develop leadership skills and experience responsibilities that transcend high school. Each counselor contributes a unique talent, but is diverse enough to lead many fun interest areas activities.

There are many ways to discover success at CVU during the summer. Many future, current, and former CVU students will connect with content and community resources. To find out how to enhance your CVU connection, check out the CVU summer camp website at cvuhs.org or call me at 482-7194.

Spaces are available for incoming ninth graders in both sessions, all interest areas.


Duncan E. Wardwell is co-director of Access CVU and coordinating the high school camp for the 13th consecutive summer.


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