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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


June 29, 2002 - Issue 64


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Fun is Academic at College Camp

by Hannelore Sudermann Staff writer Spokesman-Review
credits: Dan Pelle - The Spokesman-Review
OK, so the beds are uncomfortable and the dorm food may be just a little too healthy for teenage taste buds.

But more than 30 high school students from area Indian reservations are in Pullman this week for a taste of college life -- and that's just what they're getting at Washington State University.

They're also trying out classes in engineering and communication, two fields in which Native Americans are underrepresented.

Four years ago, the first group of ninth-, 10th- and 11th-graders came through town for the Native Youth Exploring Engineering program, a free educational camp that puts students and their teachers on campus building robots, learning the basics of engineering and making new friendships.

The program has had such success that this year the organizers added a communication component and a second weeklong session.

"I'm having fun, except I keep gluing my fingers together," said Whitney Grantham, who was so interested in the bridge-building project that she designed her balsa wood structure at breakfast.

Grantham, 14, came with a group from Wellpinit on the Spokane Indian Reservation. She was attracted to the camp because she wants to be a veterinarian and this was a chance to spend some time on WSU's campus, where the state's vet school is housed.

One floor up, four students from Inchelium on the Colville Reservation tried to keep hold of the little bolts and nuts they needed to assemble small, sound-activated robots.

Letta Laramie, 13, kept dropping her pieces and

diving beneath her desk to find them. She and her friend, Ellen Lutze, 13, broke into easy smiles as they examined each other's developing machines.

"The beds are pretty hard, but other than that, it's awesome," said Lutze, in her review of campus life.

That was music to the organizers' ears.

"When you bring minority students to camp and they're by themselves in a majority setting, they don't relax," said Charlena Grimes, academic coordinator for the College of Engineering and Architecture and director of the Ny'EE camp. "There's more comfort in a group of people who know each other."

Then the students can let their guard down, learn and enjoy, she said.

"I've never had a student leave," said Grimes. "In fact I've had some ask if the camp couldn't last longer."

Also this week, students will build cars out of cookies, erect a life-sized tepee, make a video documentary and design Web pages.

The program costs about $500 per camper and is supported through money from the College of Engineering and Architecture, Boeing and Hewlett Packard.

Grimes' goal is to familiarize the students with the campus and take away barriers that might discourage them from applying to college. And if they develop a taste for engineering, communication or WSU, all the better, she said.

"We want to get them in a frame of mind so that they take the classes that will get them into college," said Grimes. "And we want to make it so campus is not as scary as it was before."

Pullman, WA Map
Maps by Travel

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