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Hoover High’s Cardinal Camp Helps Jump-Start School For Freshmen

Hoover High’s Cardinal Camp Helps Jump-Start School For Freshmen

Surviving the transition from middle school to high school can be awkward and intimidating for many students. Hoover High School in City Heights has a solution —it's called Cardinal Camp.

Every year San Diego Unified School District’s Hoover High welcomes new freshmen. This year, there are more than 600 incoming ninth graders.

For the past eight years, Hoover has operated a special summer day camp called Cardinal Camp, which gives freshmen the skills they need to excel in high school.

Cardinal Camp began as a program to help students who might not graduate. This is the first year that the program was opened to all Hoover freshmen. However, Cardinal Camp teachers point out it is especially beneficial for struggling students.

Among the nervous ninth graders getting a jump start on high school is 14-year-old Emmanuel Juarez Rojas. He’s anxious about his first year of high school.

“Because it gets harder,” Rojas said.

About 140 of Hoover’s incoming freshmen class attended Cardinal Camp. For nine days the students took classes from English to science to history. The coursework is designed to help the students get ready academically and socially for high school.

Jon Callicott, a science teacher, helped the students break the ice when he made them form groups with people they’d never met.

“The shy eighth graders coming in as ninth graders, it's like, lets mix it up,” Callicott said.

Callicott’s students call him "Mr. C." This was his second year teaching at Cardinal Camp. Last year, Callicott said he really connected with his students.

“The relationships that I build with those kids was so much more familiar that first day when they walked in on the first day,” Callicott said. “They were like, 'Oh Mr. C!”

At Cardinal Camp teamwork is just as important as the subject matter. Callicott created a science project that gave students a chance to work cooperatively and learn about science. Each group was given paper clips, a plastic cup, one gummy worm and one Life Saver candy.

“In front of you, you have a lab,” Callicott said. “Its called 'Save Fred' and it is about procedure.”

The idea was to put the Life Saver around the middle part of the gummy worm using only paper clips and then to write down how it was done. Only by working together were the students able to accomplish the goal.

Teamwork is just as important in Stephanie Vest’s math class.

“I expect all of you to attempt the work and contribute to your group, no matter what level you’re at,” Vest tells her class.

Vest has been teaching at Cardinal Camp for four years. She asked the group of students to raise their hands if they are math students. One or two of the wide-eyed freshmen did. Vest smiled and whispered to all the campers that “everybody’s a math student.” Vest ordered all the students to raise their hands.

Vest said it is especially important for struggling students to learn to work in a group because Hoover demands much of them from day one.

“Unfortunately, they’re in Integrated One, the ninth grade math class,” Vest said. “We don’t have a remedial class for them to take.”

If an underclassmen is good at a subject, like math, they should help those who are struggling, Vest said.

“I also want (the students) to walk away with collaborative skills,” Vest said. “Being able to clearly communicate their ideas with each other and being a team player.”

Callicott and Vest expect a lot from their young high schoolers and new freshmen like Rojas set the bar high for themselves, too.

“Right now, I’m just like normal. I go to school. I do my work,” Rojas said. “But at the end. I think I’m going to be more mature.”

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