Caminos camp shows at-risk students the potential of education

Date released: 07/12/04

SAN MARCOS— At-risk students from two San Marcos junior high schools have gotten a boost towards college this summer by participating in the Caminos Pre-College Summer Leadership Camp at Texas State University-San Marcos.

Operated by the College of Applied Arts, the six-week Caminos camp hosted 75 San Marcos students from Miller and Goodnight junior high schools. The students were selected by their teachers to participate in the program.

"We've had 98 percent of the participants stay with the program for six weeks. For 75 middle school kids to stay for six weeks in academic programs, that's a significant accomplishment," said Jaime Chahin, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Applied Arts. "Middle school students are the most challenging student population out there, in terms of getting them from junior high to high school and reducing the drop out rate.

"These kinds of programs require the support and commitment of the family for the kids to succeed," he said. "We think the parents have been very supportive in helping the kids stick with the program."

Caminos camp teaches eighth-grade students about educational opportunities that exist for them if they take core curriculum courses. The one of the focuses of the Caminos camp is leadership development and academic instruction. Students successfully completing the camp programs earn high school credits in algebra, English, world geography and technology.

"The students are really bonding with the university. The dorm and classroom experience is a unique one for middle school kids about to enter the 9th grade," Chahin said. "This gives them a taste of the college experience--the academic and leadership challenges that are out there. The students are more focused about what it takes to get a college education," he said. "These students want to learn--especially the new immigrant students, who now constitute a critical mass of the new students in Central Texas in San Marcos."

During the camp, Texas State provides room and board along with on- and off-campus transportation for the students. The first year of the program was made possible by a grant of $99,984 from the Greater Texas Foundation in January, but Chahin hopes to expand and continue the Caminos camp if more funding can be secured.

"Our goal is to continue the program and expand our partnership with the San Marcos school district," Chahin said.