HAMPTON, Va. – Teens from as far as Texas, California, and Washington arrived at Hampton University for a weeklong adventure that changed their lives. The 29 students are A+ Program participants. Much like summer camp, the program incorporates fun activities, but at Hampton University, learning is the name of the game.
“This was the best A+ we have had during my time here mainly because of the rapport the students built with each other,” said Dr. Sabin Duncan, Director of the Freddy T. Davy Honors College and A+ Program. “When I learned that the girls had pushed all of their beds together and spent their evenings in friendly camaraderie, I was overjoyed. We simply hadn’t had that type of instant bonding before.”
One remarkable example of their camaraderie was the relationship participants developed with fellow participant Adonis Lattimore. Lattimore, of Virginia Beach,uses a wheelchair to get around.
“He really showed me to be grateful for everything and not complain about anything,” said 15-year-old Alex Caldwell from Houston. “He has really bettered my mind set about a lot of things, like teaching me to always stay positive. No matter what happens, we control our emotions. Seeing him do push-ups was another example of never saying ‘I can't.’ After seeing that, I believe I can do anything.”
Lattimore had such a significant impact on his peers, that he was voted Mr. A Plus.
Each year, the program develops curriculum around a specific theme. Dr. Duncan chose a popular young adult novel, “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas, to teach lessons on social justice. In the novel, the protagonist, Starr Carter, is a 16-year-old inner-city girl whose childhood friend is shot and killed by a police officer.
While the media depicts Starr’s friend as a drug dealer, Starr knows the truth behind his murder and is left to deal with conflicted emotions as her friend is misrepresented and misunderstood by her suburban high school peers. Dr. Duncan addressed some of the issues raised in the novel by taking the students on a trip to the Newport News Police Department.
“Sgt. Hires was awesome!" Dr. Duncan said. “He gave the students a greater level of understanding from an officer’s perspective. He also touched on what one should do when encountering an officer. The kids were mesmerized.”
Participants also received lessons on social justice from Hampton University Professor Dr. Eric Claville as well as self-awareness lessons from Dr. Tamara Williams. Participants also received introductory violin lessons from alumna, Megan Jennifer-Harris.
“I’ve met so many people from all over the country,” said 17-year-old Cailyn Gregory of Jackson, MS.
"My favorite part of this camp was the second night. Everybody was in the lobby. I got to meet a lot of new people and talk to them,” said 13-year-old Kyla McKnight of Leesburg, VA. “This has been a really good experience for me because I got to make some new friends and I learned new things."