Wednesday, June 19, 2013
EXCEL Camp Helps Village Students Succeed in School
The program offers rural students an intensive four-week summer school experience.
Although the new school year is weeks away for most Alaskan kids, the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam is already looming over many students, especially those who have taken it but failed to pass.
Oftentimes, tutoring sessions may be needed but are not available in many rural communities. To help bridge that gap, one group is bringing students to Anchorage and immersing them into a world of learning.
Think of it as summer school on steroids.
“The goal of EXCEL Camp is to help students who are struggling, pass the HSGQE exit exam. To help them prepare for that testing and graduate from high school and get a diploma,” says EXCEL Camp director Carol Wilson.
The EXCEL Camp gives rural students an intensive four-week summer school experience. While they are housed on the Alaska Pacific University campus, the students attend classes and tutoring sessions during the week, and participate in an outdoor leadership program on weekends.
“So many of our rural kids need that urban familiarization and urban exposure,” says Wilson. “It gives them the hands-on, real-life connection so they can take what they learned here back to their villages. It makes learning relevant,” she says.
Students wanted to come back to camp year after year, even after they passed the HSGQE, so officials decided to take EXCEL one step further—adding four hands-on "strands" to get students ready for life after high school.
This year, along with exam tutoring, students are learning construction, culinary arts, multimedia and—for the first time—training to be emergency trauma technicians.
“I’m glad that I am learning all this stuff,” says Kalskag student Martin Wise. “It's pretty fun. It's a pretty good program.”
The Aniak Dragon Slayers were brought in this year to help teach the ETT course. The student members of the Aniak Volunteer Fire Department help to teach their fellow students the basics of trauma response and CPR so the students in EXCEL can take their new skills back to their communities.
“One of my former students who I taught CPR to contacted me,” recalls ETT Instructor Dave LeMaster. “They had pulled an 8-year-old kid out of a frozen lake, and did CPR on him for 45 minutes. They saved him.”
Aside from giving the students life-saving skills they can use immediately, EXCEL is giving them building blocks for the future.
“In our village, we don’t have that many health aides, and this is a great opportunity to learn a lot of that stuff to help the people in my village,” says Wise.
For the past few years, funding for EXCEL has come from grants, but this year those grants were not available. So this year, the six school districts of these 55 kids are paying $4,000 per student. Tuition covers room, board, and all of the teaching materials.
The EXCEL students graduate Friday, Aug. 5, and will then head back to their communities to get ready for the regular school year where they will put their new skills to the test.