Aijalon Oliver participated in the Summer School at Wasatch Academy in Utah.
Why did you choose to participate in a high school summer program?
Well, I’m apart of this program called Summer Search, which is a program that helps students in low-income communities with the chance to travel. Summer Search has partnered with many high schools, community-based organizations, and families in Boston, New York, The Bay Area, Seattle and Philadelphia to provide not only traveling opportunities but mentoring and college support services.
Luckily, Summer Search partnered with my former high school in Massachusetts, TechBoston Academy. As soon as I heard about the program, I signed up and knew that it was the program for me.
Summer Search grants its members two full scholarships towards a summer experience. For their first summer experience, students are required to complete a wilderness trip. My wilderness trip was in Asheville, N.C., where I completed a 21-day Outward Bound Course. There, I was challenged the most I’ve ever been challenged in my life, physically and mentally and I’ve grown through self-discovery.
For their second summer experience, students have a choice to either go on a service trip or an educational trip, and your mentor finds the best place for you. I chose an educational trip because I felt that it would be beneficial for me because I was going to be entering my senior year. My mentor found Wasatch Academy’s Summer Program, and that’s where I went. At the time, I’ve never heard of Wasatch Academy and I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I was going out west to Utah by myself, and I had nothing but high hopes for it.
How did you decide which program was right for you?
My mentor told me that there were two programs I could choose from for Summer School at Wasatch Academy. A three-week long program, and a six-week long one. I chose the six-week long program for two reasons. One reason was that I wanted to get the most out of my summer experience. I wanted a chance to make good friends, and a chance to challenge myself and see how well I do on my own – after all it was the longest I’ve ever been away from home.
The second reason was that life at home wasn’t ideal. My parents would argue quite often, and it was hard seeing the two people you love the most so upset all of the time. I wasn’t so sure I could deal with a whole summer of that. So I also chose the longest program to get away from that.
What was a typical day in your summer program?
We’d eat breakfast in the morning, head to the classes that we’d chosen for ourselves, and then head to the dorm afterward. We had mandatory rec trips every day after school where we’d do things like go to an amusement park, tubing down a river, hike, play at an arcade, roller skate, and other super fun things! We would have dinner on campus afterward, or off campus, if we were too late leaving our rec trips. Every day there was something new and fun to look forward to.
What was the most memorable moment of your summer?
The most memorable moment of my summer is when I was awarded the Joseph Robert Loftin Summer School Award for my visionary leadership, hard work and enthusiasm for people. It was a proud moment for me because I’ve never been the one to win awards. Not because I was a bad student, but because I’ve never done enough to stand out. I usually am just average. So to be the one that teachers nominated for this award out of all of the other summer school students really boosted my self-esteem and proved that I’m am just as capable as typical award-winning students to do well. Not only did the award make me feel great about myself, it also landed me a scholarship to come here for the school year. That is why I am here for my senior year.
What advice do you have for teens looking at summer programs or camps? What have you enjoyed most about your Wasatch Academy experience?
I would tell teens looking at summer programs or camps to go for it! You’re in for some real fun. At a summer program, you will meet amazing friends you wouldn’t have met otherwise, and you’ll have experiences you’d probably never get a chance to do again. Summer programs and camps are also where you’ll do a lot of self-discovery, and you’ll grow in ways you never thought you could. Through physical and emotional challenges, fun activities, and memories that last a lifetime, you won’t regret attending a summer program. What I enjoyed the most about my Wasatch Academy experience is meeting some of the best people I will ever know, and the sense of community you get here. Everyone has each other’s backs, and no matter how far you go after the program is long over, if you happen to return that will remain true. I’d do it all a thousand times again.