Students can still register for Governor's Camp; 'The Legacy Continues' is this year's theme by M. Jill Sundstrom Thousands of students have attended the past 15 South Dakota Governor�s Camps and Ambassadors of Excellence program on The University of South Dakota campus?and Dr. Bruce Milne remembers many of them.
Pictures of ambassador graduates hang on his walls. He�s able to recite their resumes as if they were his own children. And in a sense, they are, for Milne has had a great deal to do with their lives.
Along with Dr. Carole Kasen Talented and Gifted (TAG) coordinator for Rapid City area schools, Milne has directed the Governor�s Camp since its inception in 1984. The Ambassadors of Excellence program has also been their project, developed as an offshoot of the camp 11 years ago.
And the legacy continues.
That�s the theme of this year�s Governor�s Camp and Ambassadors of Excellence program, slated next month. Campers will come to USD July 25-29, while the ambassadors will be here July 19-29.
To date, 100 campers have registered, but Milne hopes there will be more when the 16th annual event actually begins.
�Ideally we can handle about 150 students,� Milne said. �But the numbers are down this year. The deadline for registration has passed, but we�ll take them all the way up to the day the camp starts.�
Milne is quick to point out that he and Kasen aren�t alone in directing the programs that have enriched the lives of so many students. USD faculty, trained staff members and ambassador graduates give of their time and talents to the campers and ambassadors each year. Throughout the years, members of the community of Vermillion have also been active supporters and volunteers.
Students of high ability and talent who will enter in grades seven, eight and nine are eligible for the Governor�s Camp. The program is designed to give them academic experiences with USD faculty and trained staff. In a sense, it�s college for kids.
Experiences range from classes in history, chemistry, literature, foreign languages and geometry. Recreation is on their agenda, too, from swimming and soccer to volleyball and weight lifting.
Students may also enrich their experiences in art, music, drama, dance and computer technology. And they are exposed to creative problem solving, critical thinking and cultural awareness.
In addition, a new program, Peer Response, will be required of all campers this year.
�Each student will sit in a training session to teach them how to look for clues of pending emotional problems among their peers,� Milne said. �The philosophy is that we cannot exist as teachers or students and not know that something�s going on.�
Rather than not getting involved, the students need to be proactive, he added.
�Loosely translated, we hope the Peer Response discussions will manifest themselves in a neighborhood watch or support group system for those who are experiencing difficulty,� Milne said.
The ambassadors serve as counselors for the junior high campers. They are high ability students who will enter the 10th, 11th or 12th grade next fall. Their duties include working with the staff in developing activities for campers and assist in one or more areas of teaching or activities.
As Milne looks forward to the 1999 camp, which will focus on the classics this year, he defines the entire program as one of exposure.
�It�s like the mumps, measles or chicken pox,� he said. �You can�t get it unless you�re exposed to it. This camp offers experiences that aren�t necessarily available to the students in their own schools. They are challenged at the camp and as high ability students, they are encouraged and accepted here in a way that may not be possible at home.
�High ability kids are not always accepted at school,� he continued. �They�re teased because they�re smart or over-achievers. At the Governor�s Camp, they meet kids who are just like them and gain the courage to stand up and realize that they aren�t so different after all.�
Over 3,420 students from more than 75 different communities of all sizes have participated in the Governor�s Camp since its beginning. The program is maintained with the $300 tuition fees paid by each camper.
For more information on how to register for the Governor�s Camp, contact Milne at the USD School of Education, #123, University of South Dakota, 414 East Clark Street, Vermillion, SD 57069-2390 or call 605-677-5697.