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High Schoolers Become 'Summer Trojans'

USC Summer Programs gives high school students insight into life in USC Dornsife.

High school students in a Summer@USC Program course debate international intervention in human rights violations. Photo by Susan Kamei.
High school students in a Summer@USC Program course debate international intervention in human rights violations. Photo by Susan Kamei.

Is chronic Lyme disease a myth? How does Botox work? What role does nationalism play in world politics? Do video game designers consider a user’s brain activity? What is the genesis of pop culture?

In July, high school students throughout the world examined these and other issues in the 2011 Summer@USC classes sponsored by USC Summer Programs and taught by USC Dornsife faculty.

“The four-week programs offered this summer by USC Dornsife faculty gave motivated high school students the chance to explore subjects which are not part of their regular high school curriculum,” said Susan Kamei, USC Dornsife associate dean for advanced and professional programs.

Summer@USC offered eight classes: “Future Physicians;” “Bodyworks: Human Physiology;” “Exploring Psychology;” “Forensic Psychology;” “Logic and Debate;” “International Studies;” “Contemporary Popular Culture;” and “Creative Writing Workshop.”

The courses whetted students’ appetites for college.

Joe Bohlinger, a rising senior at Pasadena’s Polytechnic School, credited the analysis of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying in the writing workshop for giving him ideas about how to handle multiple points of view in his short story “Making the Same Wish.”

“From a close reading of a great work of literature, I saw how I could derive writing techniques,” Bohlinger said.

Olivia Camerini, a rising senior at Corona del Mar High School, added that the workshop was “far beyond anything I could have done in my high school.

“The growth in my writing just accelerated as a result.”

Students in the workshop produced a portfolio — a personal statement ready for college applications, a short memoir and a flash fiction example. They also participated in activities mirroring professional writers, such conducting public readings and preparing works for publication in literary journals.

Students also gained insights into potential majors and future career paths. Taking the future physicians course solidified Sophia Maline’s goal to become a doctor.

“I was surprised to learn about the opportunities in global health and about the potential to help prevent and cure disease,” said Maline, who will enter her junior year at Los Alamitos High School.

Students taking this course also shadowed physicians during weekly visits to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Through lectures, clinical sessions and observations, students were introduced to the study of gross anatomy, histology, microbiology, physiology, the biology of disease, and ethics; issues of patient care; and the politics of health care reform. Students taking “Forensic Psychology” observed trials and visited with prosecutors and district attorneys.

Students who came from Sweden to South Carolina made friends with classmates from diverse backgrounds. In “Contemporary Popular Culture,” “Exploring Psychology,” and “Logic and Debate,” students probed the social psychology of prejudice and discrimination, and tested their thoughts and assumptions.

In “Contemporary Pop Culture,” students focused on social networking, music, television, film, and comedy analyzing the ways in which authors, audiences, and texts interact.

“Using critical reasoning, students learned to get at the arguments surrounding pop phenomena in the world today,” said Michael Bunn, a lecturer in USC Dornsife’s Writing Program. “They learned to speak for themselves in persuasive, effective ways.”

The summer program gave some students a taste of independence.

“I really wanted to come to Los Angeles for the summer, to see what it would be like to go away to college,” said Nami Watanabe, a rising senior at Mid Pacific Institute in Honolulu, Hawaii. “I was nervous when I first arrived, but the resident assistants were awesome and really made us all feel comfortable and welcome.

“Now I’m even more convinced that I want to go away to school.”

Parents saw the benefits, too.

“The program provides a nice balance of scholarly education and fun activities,” said Camerini’s mother Victoria Niklas.

Peter Kwong of South Pasadena said his son Michael could have lived at home and commuted.

“But a large benefit came from staying in the dorms,” Kwong said. “He did his own laundry and had a roommate from Turkey. He had great experiences which helped him get ready for college.”

At the closing banquet, the summer Trojans cheered as they watched a slideshow capturing their dances, concerts, floor meetings, college admissions prep sessions, class presentations and trips to the beach and Disneyland. Amid hugs and tears, and flashes of cell phone cameras, many called it the best summer of their lives.

“My son Joe wishes the program would last for the rest of the summer,” Don Bohlinger said.

“He would love to come back next summer.”

Information about the July 2012 USC Summer Programs will be available in December. To learn about the Spring “Come to Campus Day” and next summer’s courses, visit, follow USC Summer Programs on Facebook, e-mail, or call (213) 740-5679.