Spotlight Author: Write On Summer Camp
Camp is for… Writing? A Spotlight on Samantha Hargrove by Courtney McNamara
When the bell rings at the end of the last day of the elementary school year, most students have visions of swimming pools, backyard adventures and endless licks of ice cream. However, this often leads to the dreaded summer learning slump – brought on by the inevitable fact that summer is the time for most kids to forget about those teachers that give them homework all year and just be “free”. Samantha Hargrove, Public Relations and Special Events Coordinator at North Carolina A&T State University, believed that some students did not actually want to stop learning altogether over the summer. Along with support from the university, Hargrove went against the current and created a summer writing camp to fuel the thirst of the most eager, young learners in the community.
A print journalism major from Norfolk State University, Samantha Hargrove began her career as a news reporter, moved on to teach elementary and middle school, and finally ended up at North Carolina A&T University working in Public Relations. She became the coordinator of Write on! Summer Camp not as a way to make extra money, but because, as she said, it combined two things she loves – writing and children. The camp is actually run during one week of her vacation time in a space provided by the university and is intended not to be a classroom setting but rather a much more interactive scenario. The kids play games to learn grammar and the rules of the five paragraph essay, and perhaps most importantly are introduced to people who actually love to write and do it for a living, including journalists, poets, and short story authors.
The students range from the kids who struggle in school and need help with their writing, to those who simply can’t get enough grammar in their lives. Hargrove tries to keep the group around 20-25 students who are entering the 3rd to 5th grade. Through the repetition of competitive games (prizes included), she aims to instill the fundamentals that students can struggle with all the way up until they enter college. One of the most stimulating activities Hargrove incorporates to the weeklong camp is a commercial project. After she teaches them some of the fundamentals of commercials, the students form groups, pick a company, and create a mini ad campaign including a written “call to action” piece. One of the most memorable for Hargrove was the idea by a group of boys based off of the G2 Gatorade product, their slogan being “You can be a G, 2”. The boys put their creative writing skills to use and made up a rap, which, according to Hargrove, she wanted to send to Gatorade because it was so creative. Another ad incorporated the Chips Ahoy cookie logo in an Earth shape, to go with the theme of “going green.” The students are able to see at an early age that writing skills can be used in many different outlets.
Through her experience at the university, Hargrove has noted the importance of positive energy when it comes to inspiring students to write well. One of the most essential elements for Samantha is the transference of her very own love of writing. She wants to transfer her own energy and spark the interest of these young writers because every bit counts and it is crucial to infuse this enthusiasm as early as possible. When the students associate grammar rules with catchy jingles, and high intensity Family Feud and Jeopardy style competitive games, they are much more likely to appreciate the art of the English language (even if they don’t realize it). Hargrove has found that most kids are excited about learning, and it is her role to help them dig down inside and find that passion for writing.
It is important for kids to release energy over the summer and in the North Carolina A&T University campus community there is an opportunity beyond baseball, soccer, and water gun fights. The Write on! Summer Camp is an inspiration to all writers to see kids as young as 8 spending one week of their summer away from video games, and excited about grammar games. Thanks to Samantha Hargrove, these kids can write on, and on, and on…