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Illini Summer Academies Reveal New Wonders For Illinois Teens

It’s like suddenly seeing the world in a new way.

That’s how teens attending the Illinois 4-H Illini Summer Academies describe their time studying with University of Illinois instructors in late June.

From quantum mechanics and mutagenesis to honey bee health and family interactions, U of I staff allowed Academy teens to peek in the windows of emerging technologies, scientific investigation, and human development explored on this great campus.

“I’ll never look at a movie the same way after this conference,” Marion County 4-H Member Lindy Branch said. Lindy is one of 10 youth in the Theatre Fashion Academy with Barbara Schoenoff of the Krannert Center. The group evaluated the recent Beauty and the Beast movie to understand how subtle changes in the beast’s costumes advanced the movie’s key themes.

“I’m considering changing my major now because of this class,” Branch said.

Theatre Fashion was one of 15 fields of study offered to 275 Illinois teens June 25-29. For many teens, it was their first time on the U of I campus and their first time to consider potential college majors and future careers. Other academies included two courses in Human Development and Family Studies, Ag Communication, Animal Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, Aerospace Engineering, Micro and Cellular Biology, Journalism, Chemistry, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Entomology, Digital Manufacturing, Anthropology, and Theatre Hip Hop Dance.

Teens learned how interwoven the sciences … and life … really are. “We use math and physics to better understand chemistry,” said Professor Nancy Makri, Gutgsel professor of chemistry, as she described quantum mechanics with 20 students in the Chemistry Academy. One could hear the excitement and wonder in her voice as she admitted, “After more than 30 years of teaching, I still get excited at the science.”

“We want youth to gain experiences which will advance their knowledge, attitude, and self-confidence,” said Alvarez Dixon, University of Illinois Extension 4-H youth development specialist in college and career readiness.

Katelyn Jones-Hamlow and the faculty in the ACES Animal Science department hope to expand the career options for youth attending. Nearly all the youth come to the academy thinking they want to be a veterinarian, Jones-Hamlow said, “but we want students to see there are many other opportunities waiting for them in food production, companion animal care and education, wildlife biology, and other fields which use an animal science foundation.”

Local participants from Washington County 4-H included Ethan Bening and Megan Smith, both of Mulberry Grove.

4-H is the youth development program of University of Illinois Extension. 4-H empowers and prepares young people to be successful in life. University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment.

If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, contact the extension office at (618) 327-8881.

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