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Center for Talent Development at Northwestern: Brantley Gilliard

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Center for Talent Development at Northwestern: Brantley Gilliard

Brantley Gilliard spent part of his summer at Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development (CTD) program.

Why did you choose to participate in a summer program?

My mother wanted to find ways for me to pursue my interest in computer science, outside of school, but there were not many suitable options for me to do so around our area. When she found Northwestern’s Center for Talent Development (CTD) summer program, I was reluctant to go because I had never experienced a stay-away summer program. I was 9 years old and not yet ready to leave the house.

How did you decide which program or camp was right for you?

My first year at CTD was not really what you would call a memorable one. I found the class very challenging and my instructor saw I was struggling. I was not satisfied with my results and promised my parents I was going to do better. The next year, I tried much harder to learn and excel in the class. My same instructor, from the previous year, noted my sudden change in motivation. Outside of class, I also made more friends and started to enjoy the program very much. Ever since then, I have attended CTD’s program every year.

What was a typical day in your summer program or at camp?

I woke up at around 6:30 am. Classes started at 8:30 am, so my Residential Assistant (RA) group and I arrived at the dining hall at around 7:45 am, where we ate quickly before heading off to class.

Classes weren’t always in the same building, so you either had a class right in front of your dorm or on the other side of campus. At 11:45 a.m., my class left for lunch. Then, we continued class until 2:45 p.m. After that, it was activity time. At around 3 pm, everybody would return from class, and swarm in the dorm lobby looking for the activities.

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Activities were around one hour to 90 minutes. After activities, at around 4:45 p.m., you had a brief time to settle yourself and talk with your roommates or other friends before dinner. Dinner started at 5:30 pm. From 6 to 8:30 p.m. we had downtime. At 8:30 p.m. we had advisory, and our entire group met with our RA. The RA may ask you thought-provoking questions or simply reflect on the day. After that, we had more downtime until 10:30 p.m. when it was lights out. Then we started it all again the next day!

What was the most memorable moment of your summer?

Interacting with all the teens and building great friendships are the best parts of CTD. If you start to enjoy the program, going to class feels much more relaxed, and that enjoyment from dorm activities starts to rub off on how you feel about classes. Even though the main reason you are attending CTD is to get experience from completing a course, doing well in classes almost feels like an added bonus. The real experience is the number of friends you make and how much fun you have at the camp.

What advice do you have for teens looking at summer programs or camps?

Do not shy away from camps because you are scared of being away from home. You will adjust to dormitory life, and you may even enjoy it more than staying at home. Even if you are a shy person, you will develop many friendships at these camps by interacting with peers. Try to take advantage of the chance to get to know people outside of your school; you may like being at camp better than you like being at school. If you are attending an academic focused camp, do not spend all your time focused on your grade. Complete your homework first, and then spend the rest of the time you have with your friends. Summer camp is a rare opportunity that allows you to make countless friends and create life-changing experiences, so don’t miss out.

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