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USC trustee Wallis Annenberg’s Summer Scholars Program brings 60 high school students to USC each summer.

By Steven B. Sample

There was a time when, after the clamor of the fall and spring, I looked forward to the quiet and comparative calm of summer on our University Park campus. But it is quiet no more! The summer days at USC now stir with the activity of hundreds and hundreds of youngsters using the campus as a classroom, a laboratory, a performance hall and a playing field.

A few years ago we realized that we had an extraordinary opportunity to extend our role as the university for all of Southern California by bringing precollegiate students to USC for an array of meaningful summer programs. These students return home to their communities having grown as persons and as scholars, and having grown in their love for and attachment to USC.

You already know of Troy Camp, one of the country’s oldest student-run philanthropies, founded more than 50 years ago by USC alumnus Otis Healy while he was an undergraduate. Over the years, USC students have mentored thousands of inner-city children through weeklong summer camps. You may also have heard of USC’s long association with the National Youth Sports program, where disadvantaged local children learn lessons in teamwork and life. Other summer athletic camps expose youngsters to stellar coaching talents such as Henry Bibby, Chris Gobrecht and Richard Gallien.

The campus is a thriving academic environment as well, especially through our Summer Seminars for talented high school students. Almost 200 of them come to campus for four-week programs in engineering, environmental science, architecture, acting, screenwriting, film graphics and animation, musical theater, dance and studio art. They live on campus, interact with USC faculty members, wrestle with ethical issues and personal philosophies, and learn how to gain an edge in the competitive process of applying to universities.

Preparing students for college is a role we take seriously at USC, particularly in regard to young people who are economically and academically disadvantaged. One way we do this is through the innovative Wallis Annenberg Summer Scholars Program. In 1993 Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation launched a $500 million challenge grant to the nation’s public K-12 schools – the largest gift ever in the history of American public education.

Now USC trustee Wallis Annenberg has established the Summer Scholars Program, which selects 30 high school sophomores each year from national Annenberg Challenge schools and brings them to USC for our Summer Seminars. These students receive three units of college credit for successfully completing the program; then they return the following summer, joined by a new sophomore class of Annenberg Summer Scholars, for a total of about 60 students each summer.

That’s hardly the end of it: each day the campus is visited by multitudes of local children on field trips, as well as those enrolled in USC’s year-round college-prep programs. Our local schools hold their spring and summer commencements here, forever merging one of their families’ happiest memories with USC. The USC School of Architecture draws 130 high school students each summer with introductory architecture programs. Twenty-five miles away at USC’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Catalina Island, several dozen middle- and high-school girls are learning about biology, chemistry and ecology at an age when too many girls abandon their interest in science and math.

USC is giving these young people a tremendous experience, and many of them are serving as ambassadors for the university in return. Not a bad bargain in exchange for our giving up our erstwhile summertime respite.

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