As colleges and universities ease restrictions aimed at preventing outbreaks of COVID-19, the University of Wisconsin System has announced it is bringing back pre-college and summer youth programs this summer. Summer youth programs have been a longtime fixture at UW System campuses, typically catering to middle and high school students. Some are academic in nature, aimed at giving children a taste of college life, complete with stays in campus dormitories. Last year, when COVID-19 cases were rising across Wisconsin, system campuses either canceled summer youth programs or moved them online, which resulted in lower attendance. In early May, UW System interim President Tommy Thompson announced summer programs were returning with extra safety protocols in place.
“The pandemic is not over, but we can safely begin to return to pre-pandemic operations, including summer programs for youth and a strong majority of in-person classes this fall,” said Thompson. “We are creating a culture of responsibility on our campuses.”
Michael Casbourne is the director of TRIO and pre-college programs at UW-Green Bay. TRIO programs are federally funded initiatives designed to assist students from low-income families progress from high school to college. Casbourne said his campus TRIO summer program is a six-week, residential immersion that will start in June.
“We’re running a model that I call the TRIO bubble,” said Casbourne. “So, all of our students will be tested. They’ll go into quarantine about a week before they’re supposed to come to us. Three days prior to arriving, they have to upload a negative test result.”
Casbourne said a local bowling alley has even agreed to close its doors to the public so TRIO students can have fun while limiting potential infections.
Jason Mathwig, UW-Green Bay director of education outreach, said the campus will also offer summer camps focused on music, art and science. He said typically they, too, offer students the chance to stay in dorms, but this year, overnight stays won’t be an option. Mathwig said 10 virtual summer camps were offered last year, and he is glad to offer in-person programs this year.
“Just like in school, camps are no different,” Mathwig said. “You can do so much more in person. You can have more of the hands-on activity with the kids. They can visually do something, whether it’s art or music or STEM, physically holding on to that piece while an instructor is right there with them to help troubleshoot, as well as the human-to-human interaction with their counterparts, their peers or other students.”