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Student spotlight: Torian Neal, rising junior English major

Summer camp manager job preparing him for his planned future career as an English teacher

The summer break from school is a time when young students work hard to relax and have fun.

English major Torian Neal’s job as a summer camp employee is to make sure young people in his charge read for fun and learn new things as they unwind from the school year frenzy of standardized tests, academic projects and nightly homework assignments.

“A lot of people believe teenagers are apathetic and don’t want to do anything – and a lot of teens come into the summer camps behaving that way,” Neal said. “So, at camp we tell them about the stereotype that teenagers face and challenge them on a daily basis to break that stereotype.”

Neal works for Kidventure, an organization that hosts throughout Texas day camps, overnight camps, and after-school care for children aged three to 16. He has been working with Kidventure since 2012 – beginning as a summer camp counselor, and working his way up to his current role as a manager who oversees four different Houston-area campsites. During the school year, Neal works for Kidventure as a manager for the after-school program.

“This summer I am working with Kidventure’s LEADS day camp program. The LEADS program is geared towards campers ages 11-14 with an emphasis on fostering leadership, community service, and social interactions,” said Neal.

Working with the LEADS day camp is a precursor to Neal’s planned future career – teaching English to 8th-12th graders.

“I have always loved reading. Once I got into high school, I noticed that some kids didn’t have a high enough reading level to read books that their peers were reading – like Harry Potter,” Neal said. “That breaks my heart because I think that there are a lot of life lessons that can be learned from reading and writing.”

Neal also is gaining experience for his future as a teacher by serving as a Big Brother with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. For the past four years he has built a mentor-mentee relationship with a 14-year-old student in his hometown of Austin. He travels to Austin two or three times a month to visit with his family and his Little Brother.

Neal’s long-term goal is to teach at a Houston-area KIPP Academy, a nationwide charter school program that provides children in unserved communities with the academic skills, intellectual habits, and qualities of character necessary to succeed at all levels of their education – from preschool through college – and into adulthood.

“As a student in my English in Secondary Schools class last spring Torian showed a particular interest in reaching out to students in under-served schools, and he focused all his work for my class on topics that would help him to become a mentor to those students, and especially to young African American boys,” said Dr. Tamara Fish, Instructional Associate Professor of English.

“Torian simply overflows with enthusiasm for working with young people, and the choices that have led him to interact with them in so many different contexts at this point in his life are bound to make him an inspiring teacher later on. I can’t wait to see where he ends up.”

- By Monica Byars