What happens at Johns Hopkins University when undergrads leave for the summer? One might imagine tumbleweeds gusting through hallowed lecture halls, but Hopkins hardly gets a break before hundreds of bright teens from around the world come to the Homewood campus to live, learn, and make lifelong friends as Summer Programs participants with the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.
Nearly 9,800 elementary, middle, and high school students from 48 countries and five continents attended CTY's day and residential programs this summer, taking advanced courses at two dozen sites in the U.S. and Hong Kong, including the Gilman School in Baltimore; Princeton University; University of California, Santa Cruz; and Hong Kong University. CTY also kept students learning and engaged all summer through its online courses in topics such as calculus, forensics, cryptography, Scratch programming, and nonfiction writing. In addition, CTY's free, six-week summer programs in two Baltimore City Schools for students in grades 1-3 supported ongoing efforts to close the excellence gap and reach more bright students in Baltimore.
Summer school isn't for everyone, but many students—like Rakeb Lemma, a rising seventh-grader from Maryland who was attending CTY for her third summer in a row—say they look forward to it all year long.
"You build lifelong friendships, and the classes seem really intense at first, but the teachers ease you into it," said Lemma, who took CTY's Physics of Engineering course at Gilman this year. "Everyone is happy and friendly, and we always do fun activities and challenges."
At Hopkins, teens got a taste of campus life while taking intensive three-week CTY courses like Astrophysics, Mathematical Logic, and Writing Your World. On one humid July day, students in CTY's Genetics course huddled over counters in a Bloomberg Hall lab performing microarray analyses of MRNA expression in lung cancer cells. In Krieger Hall, noodles crunched beneath the feet of students in CTY's Investigations in Engineering course as each attempted to build the sturdiest bridge using only spaghetti and epoxy.
In addition to attending classes for five hours a day and learning a semester's worth of material in three weeks, students in CTY's residential programs learned to live in dorms, navigate a college campus, wake themselves up in time for class, and do laundry. They played Ultimate Frisbee, attended dances, visited museums, and participated in activities like looking at clouds and traditions like sing-alongs to "American Pie."
"I love that CTY is full of culture and traditions that get passed down over the years, and you make the best friendships ever," said Claire Edmonds, a rising 11th-grader from Maryland who took CTY's Law and Politics in U.S. History course at JHU this summer.
Instructor Jethro Antoin said students' enthusiasm about learning is what keeps him coming back every year.
"Teaching at CTY every summer is my vacation," said the Maryland public-school teacher who has taught the Fast-Paced High School Biology course at CTY's JHU site for six straight summers. "It's so nice to be in an environment where kids are learning because they want to learn. Kids aren't afraid to fail here; they can afford to take risks they might not be able to take at home."