One of Emory’s newest and most innovative summer programs
for school children honored its first graduating class with a July
16 ceremony attended by President Jim Wagner, as well as 38 of
the 48 members of that class and their families.
The gymnasium in the Student Activity and Athletic Center (SAAC) on the Clairmont
Campus was the site of the event, which capped Challenge & Champions @ Emory,
a three-week program administered by Emory faculty, staff and students that hosted
middle-school students and helped them develop a variety of skills in academics,
fitness and social behavior.
“It uses an innovative model of integrated skills that conform to what’s
going on with young adolescent development,” said Wendy Newby, assistant
dean of Emory College. Newby was co-creator of the Challenge & Champions
curriculum, which first debuted at North Carolina State University in 1990. This
is its pilot year at Emory, she said, adding that much of the feedback has been
positive and she hopes to increase the size of the program next summer.
Challenge & Champions is a program for fifth through eighth graders, blending
academics—including subject matter in astronomy, civics, anatomy and world
cultures, depending on grade level—with athletics. Weight training, personal
fitness and team sports like volleyball and soccer are part of the offerings.
Students learn to practice their still-developing social skills as members of
teams and in classroom group projects.
Wagner, who attended the ceremony with his wife Debbie, congratulated the graduates
for learning to be “excellent givers.”
“Normally, when I say ‘excellent,’ you think ‘superior,’ like
the best athlete,” Wagner said. “You’ve learned another definition
of excellence that might also mean the ability to change the way other people
think or the way other people do things. That way you can be number two and
still be excellent.
“There is no greater pleasure in life than those times when you are a giver,” Wagner
continued, moving on to the second part of his image. “You are givers
of ideas, of encouragement, givers of the kind of strength you have learned
At the July 16 award ceremony, each camper in attendance was identified individually.
A slide with their photo and a list of their accomplishments was projected onto
the gym wall as they crossed the stage to receive their certificate of graduation.
Academic Program Director Karen Falkenberg and Physical Education Program
Director Steve Lewis handed out the awards and served as masters of ceremony,
introducing the various speakers and singling out for recognition camp counselors
and teachers. Following Wagner’s congratulatory wishes, each of the camp’s
five instructors, including Lewis, gave brief descriptions of the curriculum
and the accomplishments of the students.
Eleanor Main, director of the Division of Educational Studies, under which
the program falls, also said a few words. “Any of us who teach, no matter what
the level, know that others give us a great responsibility when they give their
children to us,” she said, speaking specifically to the many parents who
filled the back rows of the crowd. “You taught us as we taught you,” she
said, turning her attention to the students in front.
Educational studies’ Masters of Arts in Teaching students helped develop
and implement lesson plans for the academic portion of Challenge & Champions
and also served as classroom observers.
The ceremony concluded with a step show choreographed and performed by several
campers, then a slide show put together by camp counselor Heather Brown featuring
dozens of campers, their ubiquitous smiles certifying the program a success.