Camp for a Cause

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), August 5, 2010 | Go to article overview

Camp for a Cause


Byline: Mark Baker The Register-Guard

And they say there's no free lunch in this world.

Not only are about 90 area high school students getting a free lunch every day this week and next week on the University of Oregon campus, they're getting a free education, too, thanks to a unique summer camp program.

"It's a big win-win situation because we get to come here and learn for free and all have all these hands-on activities," said Dylan Johnson, who will be a junior at Eugene's Sheldon High School this fall. "And you get $50," he said, referring to the gift certificates given to all the students in the UO's Summer Academy to Inspire Learning, or SAIL, program.

The program was started in summer 2006 by UO economics professors Bruce Blonigen and Bill Harbaugh as a one-week day camp focused on economics for 15 Springfield Middle School students. Its aim is to increase college enrollment among students from low-income families by introducing them to college life before they've even taken their first high school class.

The program recruits bright students its organizers say belong in college but who are unlikely to get the opportunity. About 25 students are recruited every spring.

SAIL has a four-year focus and includes not just the economics camp for incoming high school freshman but also the psychology and neuroscience camp for soon-to-be high school sophomores, the physics and human physiology camp for juniors and the creativity and persuasion camp for seniors. The program is free and run by volunteer UO faculty and graduate and undergraduate students.

It also has received about $150,000 in donations over the years, the vast majority from Shirley Rippey, a 1953 UO graduate from Portland and longtime major donor to the university, and her husband, James Rippey, also a '53 UO graduate.

"We started (the camp), really, just as an experiment," Harbaugh said. It was a reaction to the UO's diversity plan of 2006, "Which we thought was just a bunch of talk," Harbaugh said. "We wanted to do something a little bit more relevant."

At 10 a.m. today, that relevancy will take the dozen students in the physics and human physiology camp that began Monday to the cadaver lab in Willamette Hall to learn about anatomy. And won't that go well with that free, all-you-can-eat cafeteria lunch?

Actually, Johnson and the other students are quite excited to meet some nonliving folks who donated themselves to science.

"It's all good," said Johnson, who is thinking about attending Northwest Christian University in the fall of 2011 if he can figure out a way to pay tuition.

It's not only the financial donations from the Rippeys but also the volunteer time provided by UO faculty and students that have allowed the program to exist, Harbaugh said. Almost 30 professors are listed as volunteers for the two camps running this week and the two next week. Even UO president Richard Lariviere is scheduled to give students a lecture on Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, in which Lariviere earned his doctorate. …

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