Youth get taste of college life during 4-H Illini Summer Academies

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More than 200 youth experienced a bit of college life during the 2014 Illinois 4-H Illini Summer Academies, sponsored by University of Illinois Extension in cooperation with several departments on campus. High school youth stayed in dorms, experienced campus recreation and food, and spent 15 hours with U of I faculty and grad students in 11 departments during the 4-day conference. The "academies" included aerospace engineering, art and design, creative writing, crop sciences, electrical and computer engineering, human development and family studies, molecular and cellular biology, natural resources and environmental sciences, technical systems management and veterinary medicine, all taught by campus staff, as well as a leadership academy delivered by U of I Extension.

In addition, many youth took advantage of other campus-based activities, such as rock climbing at the Activities and Recreation Center, bowling and gaming at the Illini Union, and making creations at the Fab Lab, while others spent time in community service projects such as making cards for the military, cleaning stalls at the Society of Hooved Animals' Rescue and Emergency (SHARE) and tending to plants at the Sustainable Student Farms.

Keynote Speaker Shannon Oleen, a former professional NFL cheerleader, drew on her life experiences to encourage youth to "dream it, map it, reach it." Oleen told the delegates they could accomplish anything if they were willing to invest great time and effort into their goals. "Wake up, show up, and ask questions," Oleen said. "You can be one of the greatest of the greats," she said, "if you are willing to put in the time and finish the job."

During academy time, U of I faculty showcased the type of studies and work students could do should they choose that field of study at the university. The experiences vary widely between academies. For example, "the goal of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) academy was to introduce students to a wide range of topics in ECE and to do this in a way that demonstrates the impact the field has on society and everyday life," said Lynford Goddard. "From robotics, circuits, and control to biomedical imaging, child-learning, semiconductors/nano-technology, optics/photonics, and power/energy, ECE is everywhere."

Judy Mae Bingman, University of Illinois Extension Marketing and Communications Manager

Judy uses powerful words and photography to tell the Extension story. She is a skilled communication strategist and storyteller with demonstrated success in building teams and creating strong organizational brand identities that deepen Extension’s impact among key audiences, build brand loyalty, strengthen employee talent, and expand public engagement. She is a frequent conference presenter at the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents Conference and helps Extension staff across the nation tell compelling stories.