Community Comes to SLU for Summer as Campers, Partners

07/10/2017

It's not just kids of all ages who come to Saint Louis University for summer camp. Community organizations that help run, staff and program experiences for those kids also come to campus, partnering with SLU to expand opportunities for summer learning and fun to more children from across the St. Louis region.

Young actors take part in the "Bus Stop" skit with Metro Theater.Young actors take part in the "Bus Stop" skit with Metro Theater.

Among SLU's more than 60 summer camp offerings, 15 have a community partnership aspect, according to Troy Turnipseed, Ph.D., associate dean of enrollment management and partnerships for the School for Professional Studies. Partnering with local organizations allows the University to offer more camps run by experts from throughout the community, catering to more campers and bolstering community ties.

"There are some areas and age groups we would like to reach," Turnipseed explained, "but we don't necessarily have all the resources to offer those programs. By identifying our strengths and those of our partnerships, we are able to work together to offer the highest quality experience for both students and parents alike that is further enhanced by the reputation of Saint Louis University."

Demand for many of the partnership camps has risen over the years, Turnipseed said. As requests have risen, SLU has added more to keep pace but many of the programs fill well before their start dates. 

Relationships for Better Camps

The relationships SLU's summer camps build between campers and counselors as well as the University and the wider community, have benefits beyond the weeks children learn about lighting design or veterinary medicine, partner organizations say.

"Whenever anyone asks me what the ideal partnership is, I say, 'It's with SLU.'" Karen Weberman, education director with Metro Theater Company, said. The company works with SLU to offer middle and high school students a chance to learn about the professional aspects of theater, both on- and off-stage. "It's a true partnership, where we're in it together. It seems like the relationship with the University deepens every year."

For SLU's part, Turnipseed said, the partnerships have evolved organically, from conversations with SLU faculty who suggested partners like Metro Theater, and discussions stemming from a group's encounter with the Summer At SLU campaign. SLU works with its partners, he said, to plan camps, often for months in advance. According to Turnipseed, with the number of its community partnerships at 15, SLU is also looking to grow its partnership-oriented summer programs and is particularly looking to work with more organizations in Midtown.

"Overall," he continued, "all of the partnership camps that we offer have developed through relationship building and realizing the different skill sets each organization can bring." 

Metro Theater of St. Louis's mission is to foster inclusive communities and meaningful learning through the arts, particularly through professional theater. Working with SLU, Weberman said, enables the non-profit theater company to access professional facilities and to use the expertise of University faculty who also work as artists and in creative technical fields. Campers can then see real-world professionals at work and such interactions raise "the stakes in term of professionalism and training."

"It really opens campers' eyes to 'That could be me,'" Weberman explained. For Metro Theater's staff as well, she said, the partnership helps the company plan new programming and helps it carry out its mission of exposing young St. Louisians to the arts by highlighting new groups to serve, such as  middle school campers. 

"Partnerships are complex and take time but the partnership with SLU from the get-go has been dreamy," Weberman said. "Really wonderful learning happens in both the practical and theoretical [during the camps] and it really elevates the experience for us as artists when we enter the spaces and get to dream along with our campers."

The Value of SLU Support

Jennifer Griffard, chief operating office of Little Medical School, sees her organization's six-year partnership with SLU as a way to reach students and parents who might not otherwise have access to its programming.

Little Medical School works with SLU to provide camps focused on medical and STEM fields including a Little Veterinarian camp, Little Nursing School Little Sports Medicine and Little Pharmacy experience. The organization's mission is to promote the importance of health to children through engaging interactions with science and medicine.

"We believe that every child should have access to our programming," Griffard said. "We want kids to keep coming back as they keep growing."

The SLU partnership stands out for her group, she said, because of the University's attention to detail and its reputation and location in the heart of St. Louis.

"We have the opportunity to have a camp in the city at a trusted university," she explained, which allows her programs to reach more kids.

In a similar vein, Alan Simon, president of Mad Science of St. Louis, praised the University's commitment to getting word about its summer opportunities and its partners. Mad Science of St. Louis seeks to make science "fun" and to encourage children to embrace their inner scientists while thinking outside of the box.  

The University's support, particularly from staff members like Turnipseed and students like Kimberly Mayden, who has worked with the Mad Science and Little Medical School programs for two years, has allowed the group to bring its experiments and hands-on demonstrations to new campers.

"We would like to have representation throughout the St. Louis area," Simon said. "This really extends exposure to people in the community who may not have exposure to Mad Science in their schools or communities."

Partnerships Set  SLU's Summer Apart

For parents looking for unique summer experiences for their kids, Turnipseed said, SLU's camps provide opportunities beyond just time on stage or the chance to don a lab coat. The camps bring college to kids from across the region who may not have that opportunity elsewhere in their daily lives. 

"There is something special about being on a college campus prior to being a college student," he said. "There is an awe factor and it is something that inspires our campers to reach for success. They are proud to tell their friends and family that they are attending camps on SLU's campus." 

SLU students too, he said, benefit from working with campers, becoming mentors. 

"They are able to get the kids interested in the camp activities as well as to talk with them about SLU, college and what the kids want to be when they grow up," Turnipseed explained. "It's a great dynamic to add to our already well-executed programming." 


For more information about the many exciting summer opportunities for kids of all ages at SLU, visit Summer At SLU.

 Story and photos by Amelia Flood, University Marketing and Communications