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Cougar Junior Scholars Camp

This summer the Honors College held its first Cougar Junior Scholars camp. As part of the Honors and the Schools (HATS) community engagement initiative, seventh and eighth grade students from around Houston were invited to apply for the three-day “college” camp. “Students were selected based on teacher recommendations and responses to several questions about their academic interests and goals,” said camp coordinator Mallory Chesser. Since the aim of the camp was to give students a taste of campus life, each day simulated a regular day in college. In the mornings, students took classes in biology and engineering, and after lunch they finished with political science and English. In addition to classroom lectures, students explored the campus and engaged in interactive educational activities, including a photo scavenger hunt that focused the students’ attention on artwork and sculptures throughout the campus. 

According to Dr. Christine LeVeaux, the camp’s faculty organizer, the goal of the program is to identify talented students in the Houston area: “We want academically talented students in our area to be aware of the opportunities available to them at the University of Houston through the Honors College.”

Honors College students Diego Lopez and Katie Teeters served as camp counselors: accompanying students to class; touring students around campus, including a stop at the crowd-pleasing Fresh Food Café; and sharing their enthusiasm for the University and the College with the students. On the first day, Diego taught the students several spirit chants, and by the last day, the scholars easily filled the Commons with their Cougar pride and spirit. 

Cougar Camp picture

Several Honors College professors taught the Junior Scholars this summer, including Drs. Stuart Long, John Harvey, Anna Newman, and LeVeaux. 

Professor Long’s engineering class engaged the students in hands-on experiments and activities that included what was possibly the 

most popular activity of the camp—making a stereo speaker out of a paper plate. 

Professor Harvey encouraged students to create their own mythologies in his English class. Focusing on the elements usually present in mythology, students used their imaginations to write, and then stage, their own stories. 

Students showed off their competitive sides in a series of debates held in Professor LeVeaux’s American government class. Gun control, capital punishment, and the Pledge of Allegiance were just some of the topics students researched and argued in the debates. 

In Professor Newman’s biology class, students learned a little more about themselves as they explored the world of genetics. Students learned how hereditary information is passed from one generation to the next, and how the physical appearance of offspring is determined from the combinations of genes received from their parents. The students then applied what they learned to themselves and their families. 

Students also tested their knowledge during the camp’s culminating activity—the Quiz Bowl. Each of the four professors provided questions, based on class lectures and activities, to be included in the competition. Students contended against each other in teams to win prizes and, of course, bragging rights. Chosen for their academic achievement, campers impressed everyone present, including Honors faculty, staff, and students, as well as members of the larger University community. 

At the end of the program, the students received certificates recognizing them as Cougar Junior Scholars and left the Honors College with a broader understanding of how college works and a greater appreciation for the University of Houston. 

Said Harold Owens, one of the campers, “It opens up your eyes and it can expand your imagination and how you look at things and you’ll get a completely different perspective of college life.”

Next year, the camp will be extended to a full week in June. Check the website at to hear Cougar Junior Scholars talk about their summer experience in a UH Moment (video and audio) and to find details about next year’s camp.