Oxford hosts College Summer Experience Program for local high school students

Daniel Christian •

Chemistry class, College Summer Experience Program
Photo by Alex Minovici

Oxford’s inaugural College Summer Experience Program brought together a total of 60 students from Newton and Putnam counties for a week of learning about all things college.

From July 21 to July 25, Oxford hosted 60 local high school students for its first College Summer Experience Program. Thirty students each from Putnam and Newton counties lived on campus for a week—sampling college-level courses with Oxford faculty, attending classes designed to enhance readiness for higher education, and learning about campus life from current Oxford students. The program was designed to prepare students for the college experience, whether at Oxford or another university.

“We were excited to offer this program to students in our local community,” said Laura Gafnea, Oxford Director of Community Relations. “We see it as an important outreach opportunity to welcome students to campus and help teach them about the process of transitioning to higher education and how higher education can help them meet their goals in life.”

Students attended classes in chemistry, English, and political science, as well as self-discovery seminars and interactive academic sessions, such as a walking biology course on the Hearn Nature Trail. Lunch was provided in the dining hall, where some local produce comes directly from Oxford’s own Organic Farm, while dinners included social gatherings like a crawfish boil and backyard barbeque. In the evening, students had recreational activities and daily reflections before heading to sleep in the dorms.

Oxford's inaugural College Summer Experience Program

Photo by Alex Minovici

“I wanted to see the college experience and how it feels to live the college life,” said Daijah Hill, a student from Putnam County. “I really like it here because the classes are very relatable.”

Laila Medina, a rising junior from Newton County, echoed Hill’s thoughts and also reflected on making new friends: “I thought this would be great to experience a little bit of what college is and how it feels,” she said. “Being with another county such as Putnam, it’s easy to find people with common interests. It’s been nice to see that our counties aren’t that different, our school systems aren’t that different.”

Avis Williams, an Oxford alumna and community liaison to the Putnam County Charter School System, was instrumental in making the program possible. She had arranged a similar program with Albany State University in 2018 and 2019. As someone who grew up in Newton County and is a current resident, she saw in Oxford another opportunity to benefit local students and families. She is “overjoyed” that the program is off the ground.

“I just saw a need for our students, who have traditionally been denied some access through no fault of their own. They didn’t know what was available to them,” she said. “We wanted to see about bringing students here so we could have socialization, where they could make new friends but also have learning activities together, which would stimulate their academic achievements and desires when they headed back to school in the fall—both in Newton and Putnam.” 

“They’re learning how the college process goes so they can talk about post-high school desires and how you navigate the maze.”

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