Visitors to Ha Ha Tonka State Park on Thursday may have noticed a group of incoming high school freshman walking along the Natural Spring trail. These students were not there just for a leisure walk in the park. Instead, they were learning what it means to give back to their community.
Thirteen students signed up to be a part of the Summer Academy at Camdenton High School. This program is in its second year and is hoping to help make each student's freshman year a positive one.
"The purpose of summer academy is to help eighth grade students transition into high school. There are so many things that change from eighth grade to ninth grade. It's a new building with new teachers and a bigger building with a bigger environment," CHS Principal Brett Thompson said.
The four week long program explores various areas of high school. The first week, students get acclimated with the school and what it has to offer. The following weeks students participate in community service projects and learn about themselves at the same time. Soon students will complete an interest inventory which will help them find a career path that interests them. The group may visit an animal shelter and a fitness center in the coming weeks.
Students are chosen based on behavior, attendance, academics and if administrators feel they can benefit from this type of program. They are then asked to come in with a parent to get more information regarding Summer Academy. They then are given the opportunity to sign up for the class. If they complete Summer Academy, they receive half of an elective credit.
"They start already ahead," Linda Stark, teacher, said of the students that enter high school with the half credit.
Stark along with Doug Baker co-teach the summer course. The class allows both Stark and Baker to get to know students before the school year begins.
"To me one of the most beneficial things is we now know those students and can now follow up with them throughout the school year and help them have a successful high school transition," Principal Thompson said.
Camdenton noticed a need for such a program a few years ago. The district noticed other schools doing something similar and decided to create their own program to meet the needs of their students.
"My hope is that it [Summer Academy] will continue to grow and have a positive impact for our kids. We want to provide a program that will grow with our need and meet the needs of our kids," Thompson added.
While at Ha Ha Tonka, the group worked on the Natural Bridge and spruced up the trail along the Natural Spring before enjoying a cook-out near the post office building.