Camp Griz

Middle-school age campers will cover Dame Mall for a week-long camp as part of the college’s newest programming, Camp Griz, beginning summer 2023. 

In the meantime, Kristin Flora, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College, said a lot still needs to be done before then.

The planning

Lily Endowment Inc., who has funded the project, urged universities across the state to create programming that would allow for kindergarten through 12th grade students to set foot on college campuses with the ultimate goal of increasing Hoosier college enrollment. This funding is part of the company’s initiative, Indiana Youth Programs on Campus. 

IYPC is designed to help Indiana colleges and universities in their efforts to create new, or expand upon their existing, on-campus programs for Hoosier students. With this initiative, the Endowment has allocated more than $28.8 million in grant money. All public and private colleges and universities that have a physical campus in the state were eligible to participate.

After seeing Lily’s request, Vice President for Development and Alumni Engagement Dana Cummings said that the college began brainstorming and drafting a proposal for a planning grant in the spring. 

Thomas P. Miller and Associates helped write the grant and are also acting as project managers. 

“There was more work maybe than some of the other institutions that already had an infrastructure in place,” Cummings said.

The college was awarded a $50,000 phase-one planning grant from the initiative earlier this year. Those funds supported work to explore best practices in programming for youth and determine the most effective ways for the college to implement its chosen programming. 

More recently, the college received a nearly $500,000 implementation grant from Lilly. This grant will allow the college to get the program up and running. 

In a press release from the college, Ted Maple, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for education, said the programs that take root at participating institutions will add academic enrichment to students’ lives and inspire them to seek higher education.

“By supporting these efforts, we hope that more young people in Indiana will experience what it’s like to be on a college campus and take part in meaningful programs that can help prepare them for success in college,” Maple said.

President Kerry Prather said that the college deeply appreciates Lilly’s investment in higher education. 

“We look forward to contributing to the overall statewide movement to develop students’ college-going identities at an early age and to engaging with students and their families as they envision their postsecondary futures, no matter which institution they ultimately choose,” Prather said. 

Cummings said she was specifically in charge of finding different partners to work with for the project. These included Indianapolis Public Schools, Boys and Girls Club, Girls Inc. and the Indiana Latino Institute. 

“I was on the frontlines with several of those entities, reaching out to places,” Cummings said.

Flora said she asked professors which age group they were most interested in working with.

“We ultimately landed on middle school students because they often age out of camp options, so many summer camp activities only go through sixth grade,” Flora said. “In middle school, you’re at that age where you can’t drive, you’re generally not working. So there’s really just not much for them to do. So we thought from that vantage point it made a lot of sense.”

After narrowing down the age group to middle school and high school students, she said she began looking into what other youth-serving organizations were offering. 

“We didn’t want to duplicate efforts and it seemed like there was really a gap with middle school students, particularly in Johnson and Marion Counties, so that led us to the age group answer,” Flora said.

Campus gets really quiet over the summer, Flora said, so she’s excited to have more students on campus, and to change their outlook on college, for the better. 

The programming

From there, Flora said she reached out to the faculty to see what they wanted to teach. 

Five different academic tracks will be offered, three of which are STEM-based and two which are arts and humanities focused.  

The five tracks are paleontology, data science, catapult and trebuchet building, creative writing and visual arts. 

Flora said that the biology faculty have recently connected with the Southern Indiana Paleontology Institute and are excited to put together the paleontology programming. 

“You can find students over in the Franklin College Science Center cleaning fossils and displaying bones and stuff, so we thought that was an activity and an academic area that would translate well to middle school students,” she said.

Professor Stacy Hoehn came up with the idea of teaching students about data science, Flora said. 

The programming will be focused on “how we can use data to help others.”

“[Hoehn] has some really inventive ideas about how to help expose middle school students to data to show them that one, it’s not scary, and two, that you can use it to do good in the world,” she said.

Flora said the vision is to have instruction for three to four hours a day, Monday through Friday. 

The current plan is to give the middle school students a taste of what these fields have to offer and have them work on a project to display at the end of the week for their family and friends. 

“We hope to infuse a little bit of what we do here to give the students a clearer and more concrete sense of what it means to be at a liberal arts college,” Flora said. 

Getting boots on the ground

Dean Flora said the college has begun interviewing potential candidates for a youth-program coordinator position, who will work directly with parents, students and faculty throughout the camp.

“This person will continue to build those relationships, help us promote and market the camp as an opportunity,” she said.

Franklin College students will have the opportunity to serve as camp counselors for each of the five tracks to help the faculty lead instruction and work with students. 

“In the spring we will be reaching out to students to gauge interests about who might be willing to come back and serve in this capacity,” Flora said. “I think that it could be good for students’ resumes and give them practical experience and hopefully in a position that they feel good about giving back to the next generation.”

Project sustainability 

Cummings is leading the charge in finding other people or organizations to help fund the project in the long term so that the college will be able to continue hosting this camp long into the future. 

“It’s an opportunity for us to engage with some other funders along the way… whether it’s individuals or corporate sponsors,” Cummings said. 

Think of the logos on the back of camp shirts. Cummings believes the camp will be “a real difference maker” for the students who get to experience it. 

She also said that it would be a “double-whammy” if they chose to continue their education here. 

“We want to get these young people excited about college and the opportunity for higher education,” Cummings said.

Picturing the camp being the “moment” where students realize college could be for them, brought a smile to Cummings’ face. 

Flora shares this sentiment and looks forward to seeing students who don’t think college is for them, or something they can do, having their minds opened to all the opportunities at their disposal. 

“I think for a lot of students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. College seems really far away, it seems out of reach, it seems too expensive. It just isn’t part of how they see their future,” Flora said.

She also said that hopefully, Camp Griz will allow them to see themselves at a college one day.

Prather echoed this dream, saying his focus “is on [the program’s] potential to plant the seed that someday grows into students enrolling here.”

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