Pre-teens to take over Kent State campus

Adam Milasincic

By mid-June, the average age for new Kent State students will drop to pre-teen, the typical class schedule might include archery, and a fleet of mom-powered minivans will rival the PARTA bus system.

For the 30th straight summer, Kent State’s campus is going to the kids – and this year, they’ll have more options than ever, said outreach program coordinator Linda Mihalik. In addition to its long-standing children’s activities, the College of Continuing Studies will introduce an 11-day piano workshop and a one-week residential program for aspiring science students.

All the programs, which involve Kent State faculty and students as staff, serve as marketing tools for university, Mihalik said. Some of the children who visit for the summer will be inclined to enroll permanently once they reach college age.

“(Participating in summer programs) helps them to have a feeling of safety and familiarity,” Mihalik said. “We also get the parents involved; we have an assembly when they come to pick up their kids.”

Kent for Kids

Kent for Kids is the university’s original and most expansive summer program for children. It offers supervised classes and recreation for up to 10 hours a day for eight weeks.

Children can arrive as early as 7:30 a.m. and classes begin at 9:15 a.m. What follows is up to kids and their parents. Courses this year span a wide range from fencing to French to hip-hop dancing, said program director Beverly Petersen-Fitts, a part-time instructor at Kent State.

“We have some classes that are for teaching and some for recreation, but we try to teach something in every class,” Petersen-Fitts said. “I think there’s a lot of benefit. It gives them structure to their summer, and it gives them a lot of choices as to what the activities will be. We’re helping them create summer memories.”

Kent for Kids includes activities for youth between kindergarten and eighth grade. In addition to classes, parents can opt to drop off their children for a period of games and relaxation before and after the program.

“For the parents who have to work in the summer, it gives them a good alternative rather than leaving their kids at home with a baby-sitter,” Petersen-Fitts said.

Kent for Kids began 30 years ago and has generated many repeat participants, Petersen-Fitts said. Some of those who attended as children later attended Kent State, became program counselors or sent their own kids to participate.

Young Women’s Summer Institute

Middle-school girls from all corners of Ohio can spend a week living on campus and exploring cutting-edge science through the Young Women’s Summer Institute.

The program aims to promote science careers for women by allowing girls to conduct lab experiments and learn first-hand from professionals, said program director Judith Santmire, assistant professor of biology at Notre Dame College in Cleveland.

“There’s kind of a two-pronged approach, one of which is that they have experimental activities to do,” Santmire said. “I finished my Ph.D. (at Kent State) last year, and they do some of the basic things that we do.”

The students will explore wetlands, test water samples and generate lab reports for the EPA, according to the program Web site. The curriculum will also include materials from a United Nations conference Santmire attended about the global challenges of water use, she said.

“There’s nothing like actually going out in the field and coming back in the lab,” Santmire said. “I think the hands-on experience is the best way to determine, ‘maybe I want to do this.’ I think it’s a really great opportunity at the age that they are to help solidify their future direction in terms of a scientific career.”

Creative connections

Creative Connections allows gifted high school students from around the state to experience a week of college life with residence hall accommodations and a challenging array of courses.

The program, which is funded by the Ohio Department of Education, condenses some of Kent State’s most noteworthy coursework into week-long seminars for high school sophomores and juniors.

One course teaches the fine points of Federal Aviation Association regulations and ends with students flying a plane. Another allows students to write and produce their own video projects in “very hands-on, very intense” environment, Mihalik said.

The new programs

The success of existing summer programs led the College of Continuing Studies to consider new options, Mihalik said. The result was another sequence in science and one in music.

“We periodically take a look at what market needs are in general,” Mihalik said. “Middle school in general is really an age where summer programs are needed, plus kids that age are starting to think about careers, and they only think about careers they see people doing.”

Future Forward is a one-week residential program for middle school students interested in science and technology. A poll at the Future Forward Web site suggests that the program seeks to help students think of engineering in terms of “cool new computer programs,” or building infrastructure instead of “a nerdy guy in a white lab coat.”

“One (purpose) is keeping their interest in math and science and to keep them motivated to think about careers in science and technology,” Mihalik said. “That’s where careers in Northeast Ohio are going to be over the next 20 years.”

Finally, the newly created Piano Institute at Kent State will immerse talented high school musicians in 11 days of intense piano training. In addition to individual lessons with Kent State piano faculty, students will attend classes on sight-reading, practice and auditioning, according to the program Web site. The experience is capped off by the chance to play at the Cleveland Orchestra’s Severance Hall.

Registration and fee information for all Kent State children’s programs is available from the College of Continuing Studies Web site at

Contact continuing studies reporter Adam Milasincic at [email protected]