HSMC alumnus Reiyah reflects on her experience with the gifted summer program below.
My name is Reiyah Jacobs, and I live in Cary, North Carolina. I am a junior in high school. For the past six summers, I have attended a variety of math camps, and before that a number of other summer programs. For the last three summers, I have taken part in a camp called the Honors Summer Math Camp (HSMC), a six-week activity held in San Marcos, Texas. It is about HSMC that I want to write here, both to recommend it highly to other gifted students, and to explain why it has been a wonderful experience for me.
I love math. Unlike some kids who are interested in the competitive aspect of math, however, what attracts me to math is the opportunity it offers to engage in collaboration. I really enjoy learning math in partnership with motivated others, staying up late at night trying to figure out a particularly difficult problem. I gain immensely from associating with intelligent and friendly people, who, like me, also love math, and who likewise enjoy working hard. This encapsulates what HSMC is: it’s a place filled with super nice, smart kids, who are motivated, work hard, and enjoy math. Additionally, the campers are overseen by caring mentors with strong math backgrounds, creating an even more encouraging atmosphere.
HSMC is special in another sense- it’s actually kind of analogous to a family. Those managing the camp emphasize the growth of the campers as a whole, instead of focusing solely on the advancement of their math abilities. The skills HSMC instills are quite relevant in various aspects of life in general, and significant focus is directed toward inculcating good values among campers. This occurs in various ways. One is through counselor selection. The counselors, each of whom oversees a team of four to five campers, are all high-quality people with strong math abilities. They are selected from previous attendees.
In addition, HSMC designs its extracurricular programs to foster a sense of community. Seminars are held each Friday, at which notable persons speak about their careers and life insights. Some of these speakers are math involved and others are not. For example, one annual speaker is Admiral Bobby Inman, former head of the NSA, who spoke largely about the lessons he has learned during his life.
One other important event is the annual overnight trip to Selah (meaning, “to stop and reflect”). 50 years ago, when Selah first began, cedar tree growth characterized its area. The land was dry and relatively barren. As a result of a habitat restoration project, during which the custodian of the land, David Bamberger, replaced the cedar with grasses, 11 new springs emerged. The land has now been completely transformed. The intention of the trip is to give campers an appreciation for nature, as well as to instill in them an awareness of the positives that can accrue from respect for our land. It’s a really meaningful experience.
For me, HSMC has been an incredible opportunity. The camp has impacted me deeply and in innumerable ways. Not only have I developed an enhanced appreciation for math, but also for life itself. Again, it’s a place I would highly recommend to other gifted students.