Brentsville District High School- Class of 2021
National High School Game Academy at Carnegie Mellon University- Summer 2020
A large majority of the high schools in my district are STEM-based. As the smallest high school in the county, I attend Brentsville District High School. Although my participation in the Cambridge program allows me to take advanced math and science classes, my school is agriculturally focused and does not offer any computer science-based programs, clubs, or classes for students to join.
With the fact that courses relating to computer science and video game design are limited in my area, I was ecstatic to learn that the Pre-College Program at Carnegie Mellon University is available for students like me to pursue. The prestigious curriculum and reputation of Carnegie Mellon is unmatched by any other institution in the Northeast. Attending a Summer program allowed me to gain the instruction and experiences necessary to prepare me for my college career.
Deciding to apply for the video game design program at the National High School Game Academy (NHSGA) was a very effortless choice for me. Exposure to this exceptional program would allow me to develop the foundational skills needed to properly prepare me for a career in video game design.
Once selected to attend this program, I was fully prepared to take every given opportunity presented to learn more about the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to be successful in designing and programming video games. I have been very passionate about this profession since I was six years old. I was confident that this program will be an excellent learning experience that would not only develop the competencies I will need to be successful in this field but would also help build an effective portfolio when applying to college.
To begin a typical day at the NHSGA, the program's members would assemble for a roll call. Afterward, a variety of classes would commence. The courses I took depended on the day. On specific days, I learned about the intricacies of different types of codes in programming and how to edit sounds and music in audio.
On other days, I drew and animated 2D sprites and 3D models and discovered the inner workings of game design. With four different classes a day spanning across variant subjects, this schedule exposed me to a wide range of gaming industry practices.
The whole program was memorable, but if I had to choose a single moment from the experience, it would be from the last two weeks of the program. My classmates and I were grouped into teams and tasked with creating an original video game from scratch. After the games were completed and presented, an award ceremony was held.
Our team was presented with two awards with one of them coming from the director of the program himself. Knowing that my first full game design project was worthy of an award proved to be one of the most impactful moments in my life because it solidified my aspiration of becoming a video game designer.
For students who are considering attending a college, this Summer program is a great way to experience college life before graduating high school. The time spent in this program allowed me to explore my interests further. Additionally, Summer programs are a great way to gain college experience first-hand. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the way to go if you are seeking an educational and fun way to spend your Summer.
Brentwood Area School District High School- Class of 2021
Attended Computational Biology Pre-College Program- Summer 2020
Why did you choose to participate in a summer program?
When it comes to the year 2020, Anne Reid summed it up best: “You never know what life is going to throw at you, really, do you?”. It’s startling to remember what life was like before the pandemic. The only thing on my mind was my application for Carnegie Mellon’s Summer Academy for Math and Science (SAMS) Pre-College program.
The day I received my letter of acceptance was one of celebration and exuberance. And then, it was over. The excitement turned to anxiety. Coronavirus had canceled the program, leaving me at a complete loss. Remorseful emails of cancelations and rejections from other summer programs fluttered into my inbox.
Like a breeze, COVID-19 blew my summer plans from my hands. But then, in a spectacular turn of events, I was offered a full scholarship to Carnegie Mellon University’s Pre-College Computational Biology program. I was positive it was a gift straight from God’s hands himself.
How did you decide which program was right for you?
Now, before this program, I knew absolutely nothing about the computational portion of computational biology, but I was determined to understand the implementation of computers in the biology discipline. With encouragement from my parents and endless support of the CMU faculty, I joined the program with an open mind and a prodigious sense of curiosity.
As soon as I met my colony for the first time, I knew that I was in for a fun three weeks. I appreciated that not a single one of us were alike. We all had varying levels of experience as well as interest. I solely believe that our differences are what made us such a functional and spirited team.
Our distinctive perspectives lead us to some very unique methods of solving coding exercises. The teacher assistants were so patient with me and were determined to make sure I understood any problem I struggled with. This dedication and passion that radiates from this program just further proved how good a fit it was.
What was a typical day in your summer program?
One of the perks of this program was the fact that it didn’t start very early in the morning. This meant I had plenty of time to get a good amount of rest, complete household chores, and prep my class notes all before the program started. By the time class began, I was alert and ready to delve into the next subject.
A break followed the first half of class, of which I would take to finish my notes, use the restroom, and say hello to my parents. Class time consisted of lecture and colony time. The latter was used for coding exercises throughout the lecture, as well as discussion time. These team sessions allowed us to gain a better understanding of the material while giving us an active break from listening to the lecture.
What was the most memorable moment of your summer?
The most memorable moment of my summer was attending a Pre-College program event called Juneteenth Revisited: ‘July 4th didn’t set me free; Juneteenth is my Independence Day.’ Hosted by the Executive Director of the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion at Carnegie Mellon University, M. Sherrell Smith, presenters explained Juneteenth and its importance. I had never had such a riveting and cathartic discussion about Juneteenth before this program. Being African American, I appreciated the time and effort that went into this presentation.
What advice do you have for teens looking at summer programs?
I would advise you to stay curious. If you don’t know what you want to study in college or do with your career, these pre-college summer programs are here to help explore your interests. I’d never thought I would learn about coding, but here I was: learning about computational methods of data analysis and having fun while doing so!