I remember attending Summer Scholars the summer before my senior year of high school. The hour and fifteen minute car ride from my house in Lancaster to Eastern felt incredibly long, yet too short at the same time. I spent the entire ride fighting internally with myself, half of me wanting to ask my mom to turn the car around, and the other wanting to take the course. I was so scared that I would not be able to keep up with the other students or that my writing would not be good enough. Those fears vanished within the first day of the program: not because I conveniently found some previously hidden confidence, but because of the hospitality extended by the professors and student staff.
This past summer, I had the joy of being part of the student staff that, hopefully, alleviated some of the same fears of the incoming students. I got excited each time a new car pulled up and another wide-eyed high schooler stepped out. As the program went on, I was amazed at the insights that the students had to offer. They brought up points in conversation that I never would have. They responded to one another, in and out of the sessions, with respect and maturity. They were genuinely nice students, and I loved getting to be their friend: playing card games, splitting cheesesteaks, driving to Wawa. I also loved my role as their mentor. The students brought their papers to us TAs and genuinely wanted to learn how to make them better. They listened when we explained grammatical rules. They experimented and revised when we offered suggestions. They came to us when they were frustrated and struggling to even get the words out of their heads and onto the paper– a struggle I know all too well. I was blessed to witness their desires to learn and write well. I was also blessed with the experiences the program gave to me. I had to remind myself to be patient when they repeatedly made the same grammar mistake. I had to think through my comments in my head before saying them to make sure that they communicated instruction with compassion. The Summer Scholars Program teaches the students to think critically and expand their understanding. While the student staff learn this as well, the bigger lesson that I learned was how to be nurturing. I learned and practiced how to support the students. How to celebrate with them when they shared an insightful comment in class, and how to encourage them when they didn’t quite get the grade they wanted on a paper. The truly amazing thing, though, is that what I have stated so far applied equally to both sessions of the program. This goes to show that it was not just an exceptional group of students who made the experience so enjoyable, but the structure and heart of the program itself.
Meredith Vesey (’21) is a sophomore in the Templeton Honors College studying biochemistry. She is the co-president of Bridges, a club for international students, and is interested in pursuing medical missions in the future.