Gifted Middle School Students Flock to Ohio Wesleyan for OWjL Camp

Program celebrates 30 years of helping to stretch young minds

The “Yoga Fun” class gets Zen, posing to work on flexibility and posture. (Photo by Brittany Vickers ’13)

As the first group of gifted students stepped onto Ohio Wesleyan University’s campus in June, they became part of the 30th anniversary class for the OWjL Camp.

OWjL, the Ohio Wesleyan University Junior League of Columbus camp, is a summer program for gifted students in central Ohio in grades six, seven, and eight. Participants live in residence halls at Ohio Wesleyan for a week while attending classes and participating in “cultural, recreational, and social activities.”

Students choose four classes from subjects that include mathematics and computing, science, humanities, and creative development. Each class is taught by a professional or specialist in the discipline.

“We have the students suggest ideas for classes, and then we do our best to offer exciting choices,” Executive Director Susan Paxton says. “This year we had a master calligrapher teach a calligraphy class, as well as a national boomerang champion who taught the ‘Art and Sport of Boomerangs.’ ”

Other classes included “Hip-Hop 101,” “Basic Robotics,” “You’re on Trial!” and “Murder in the Chem Lab!” Teachers create and submit their individual curriculums, which Paxton reviews and approves. Many teachers return each year to teach at OWjL camp, and some are former OWjL campers.

In recent years, more than half of the 20 counselors who assist with each session have been former OWjL campers.

The goal of the camp is more than just taking classes, “These kids are capable of thinking outside the box,” Paxton says. “We want them to know it’s OK to be smart, and the campers get to meet people like them.”

Student comments show they think there is more to OWjL than what they learn in class.

On the OWjL Facebook page, former students enter comments that range from “I miss camp” to appreciative comments including: “Yeah there’s the school stuff I learned … but through three years of being a camper I learned to not be super awkward around people, that everyone is a little bit of a loser, so why should my loser-ness be any different, how to be myself, how to be independent, and how to handle people and situations I would have never encountered otherwise.

“I guess,” the camper concluded, “I just wanna say, ‘thank you OWjL for making me, me.’ ”

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