A+ Scholars Practice Teamwork, Leadership at Camp Strake Weekend

January 3, 2012

Nearly 100 Houston-area middle school students celebrated their hard work and college-track academic performance recently with a fun and exciting fall weekend at Camp Strake in Conroe, TX.

For many students, it was their first time camping out in the woods, away from the city lights and distractions. "You could walk and hear, every time you step, the leaves and branches crunching," said Iliana Lopez, a 7th grader from YES Prep West. "It's just a great way to reflect on what you've done, and leave all the problems back there."

From night hikes to silly skits to teambuilding challenges, weekend activities focused on building students' leadership and teamwork skills, perseverance, clarity of language, and other "habits of the mind" that research shows are important for developing college-ready students.

"We've tried to design a weekend where they work hard and they play hard," said Scott Van Beck, Houston A+ Challenge's Executive Director. "Last night we talked about promises -- promises they make to themselves and each other. Then we talked about behaviors -- what is it to exhibit 'scholarly' behaviors?"

So what did the students learn? Here are just a few of their comments:

"I think that being an A+ Scholar means to do your best, try your hardest, and do everything you can." -- Gage Tyler Jobe, Horace Mann Junior School, Goose Creek CISD

"I've learned that failure is not just something that think, 'Oh, I failed so I'm giving up.' Failure is actually something that motivates you, something actually good." -- Oluwapa Dina, YES Prep West, YES Prep Public Schools

"I learned that the important thing about teamwork is that you have to trust the leader -- just trust everybody on your team." -- Ever Cruz, O'Donnell Middle School, Alief ISD

"Always push yourself to achieve your goals, and never let anybody bring you down, or tell you what you can or can't be." -- La Shay Williams, Caraway Intermediate School, Aldine ISD

The weekend was developed through a partnership between Houston A+ Challenge, The Woods Project, the Boy Scouts.