Campus Life

UWF Explore Summer camps enrich community and campus

The University of West Florida offers non-credit summer camps for K-12 students, and the program, going into its seventh year, has recently been the recipient of two awards for community engagement.

Explore Summer Camps (ESC) is a nine-week program overseen by the Division of Continuing Education that seeks to “stimulate creativity and change lives by encouraging individuals to invest in their future by developing and refining knowledge, skills and abilities.” They accomplish this by teaching camps in a variety of disciplines, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), theatre, music and archeology.

“We offer camps in a variety of areas,” said Michelle McMillan, program manager for ESC. “This summer, we are planning to offer more kindergarten-friendly camps. We are also adding ‘Digging up Bones,’ a paleontology-themed camp and ‘Weird Science.’”

Instructors for the camps include Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa county teachers, university faculty members and community business partners, including Gulf Power Southern Company, American Institute of Architects, Johnson Construction Company and West Florida Historic Preservation, Inc.

“It’s a great opportunity for everyone,” said McMillan. “We help keep a number of grade school teachers employed for the summer, and we provide the kids with a variety of skills to make them ready for college and career.”

The program also partnered with Pensacola State College this past summer to provide 25 students with free tuition to attend Game Programming Camp.

Enrollment has steadily increased from 684 in 2006 to 840 in 2011. Program choices have also increased from 28 to 45.

“ESC offers a valuable and effective pipeline of resources from UWF to the community and vice-versa,” said McMillan. “The community response has been fantastic. Enrollment has gone up because it’s cost-effective. Parents have responded positively to that.”

In addition to these courses, 7th through 12th grade students can also attend the UWF Admissions “College Readiness” class, which covers college life and the application process.

In the summer of 2011, the program received two prestigious awards from the University Professional & Continuing Education Association: the Program of Excellence award and the Distinguished Program award.

“I feel very honored and proud to be a part of this program that has grown so much since 2006,” said McMillan. “It’s not very often that you get a chance to really make an impact on the surrounding community’s teachers, business partners and youth.  I look forward to building upon that partnership between the community and UWF by continuing to offer summer camps that are cost-effective, and, most importantly, fun.”