Summer programs increase student curiosity, exploration

Opportunities include connecting with international students, gaining independence
Summer programs increase student curiosity, exploration

As senior Clare Antonow stepped onto Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus for the New York Times Summer Academy in the summer of 2023, she was immediately immersed in a crowd of international students.

Upon being welcomed by her summer program’s counselors, Antonow said her feeling of excitement overtook her unease.

Antonow is one of many Paly students who attend programs over the summer to study academics, sports or civic engagement.

According to Forbes, students receive many benefits from attending summer programs, including academic enrichment, exposure to college life, skill development, networking and personal growth. 

Antonow, who attended the NYT Summer Academy for filmmaking, said summer programs can provide an opportunity for students to pursue their passions. 

“It really did make me realize how much I love film, and being in a room surrounded with really creative people who are super passionate about the same thing and working with them was just the best feeling ever,” Antonow said. “It made me realize this is what I want to pursue, and it was such a valuable experience.”

While summer programs often mainly focus on providing enriching learning experiences, Antonow said some of her most valuable takeaways were the global connections and friendships she made. 

“My roommates and the people on my floor were from all over the world,” Antonow said. “It was such a cool experience to become friends with this girl from Milan or this girl from China or this girl from Belgium. I’ve never had the chance to make friendships with anyone who lives internationally, and it was such an awesome experience in that sense.”

The Council on International Educational Exchange is the largest nonprofit study abroad program in the country, specializing in intercultural exchange.

Spanish teacher Angela Ambrosio brought this program to Paly and said CIEE language programs provide students with independence and offer them real-world experiences outside of Palo Alto. 

“You meet new people, you learn to be a little more independent,” Ambrosio said. “It’s a good way to not be around your family for a little bit. Getting out of this area (and) doing something different (is) also something which I know a lot of high school students are looking for.”

Similarly, the National Student Leadership Conference program focuses on preparing students for life beyond high school.

Sophomore Will Stover, who plans to attend this program this summer, said he hopes it will provide him with meaningful connections.

“With NSLC, not only do I gain experience and understanding, but I also gain connections through my summer program, and I think that’s also very important to do well in your career,” Stover said. “The most important thing is having good connections, and that’s another thing I really look for when I apply for summer programs.”

Stover also said he hopes this program will help him discover what he wants to major in, while simultaneously building his resume. 

“I’m interested in political science, and I really think that what I look for in a summer program is the next step to build up my resume and gain experience,” Stover said.

While some students think attending high school summer programs helps with college admissions, College Advisor Janet Cochrane said the programs don’t benefit students as much as they think.

“They don’t help with college admissions, only in that it may help a student figure out what they want to major in, or help with deciding if they like the particular campus they stayed at if the program was on a college campus,” Cochrane said. 

Senior Anna Feng, who attended Medill Cherubs, a summer program hosted by Northwestern University  aimed towards rising seniors interested in journalism, will attend Northwestern University in the fall.

Feng said participating in the program allowed her to follow her passion for journalism under a more focused lens.

“I was able to be immersed in an environment that was solely focused on this one aspect, or one extracurricular that I was really interested in,” Feng said. “And to learn from professionals in the field and see what it would be like to take it to the next level.” 

However, Feng also said the program was expensive.

But, unlike many other programs, Cherubs offers scholarships to students from lower-income families.

“Price-wise, it was $5000, so definitely on the higher end of things, but I know they had some pretty generous scholarships,” Feng said. 

Like Antonow, Feng said another valuable aspect of her summer program was connecting with people from around the world who shared her passions. 

“Getting to hang out with 50 other journalism students across the nation and internationally, and seeing how their publications operated and how they approached their stories was really cool,” Feng said.

With summer programs in mind, Ambrosio said it is important for students to destress during the summer.

“It’s very important to take time off, just take some time to yourself, kind of rejuvenate and find something you’re passionate about and pursue it,” Ambrosio said. “Spend time with family, and if you have an opportunity to travel, whether it’s with your family or through a program like this with other high school students, I think that’s very valuable.”

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