VAMPY Campers Tell All at Lunch!

by Erika Solberg

Well, not all, but over the last three weeks, I’ve spent time talking to campers as they eat their pizza, soup, tater tots, and ice cream. Here is a sampling of memorable comments.

Why did you choose your particular class?

Zane Woodell of Pittsburgh, PA: I’m really into history. My gifted coordinator got an email from Classrooms Without Borders about a scholarship to VAMPY to take Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and I looked into it. Then I told Finn [Finn Graham of Pittsburgh, PA] about it, and he got really interested as well. So we took them up on the opportunity and came here.

Ari Srivastava of Bowling Green: I chose DNA and Genetics. I’ve always liked life science because I think it’s really interesting to see how all the organisms and everything around us work and how organisms and the components that make them can be manipulated to our advantage.

Taylor Galavotti of Lexington: I’m taking Writing because I was a big writer in elementary school and enjoyed it a lot, but when middle school hit, I just kind of dropped off, though I still read. I wanted to regain my love of writing and see if I could make a career out of it. I took DNA last year, so it’s a big jump for me.

David Suarez of Somerset: I’m a Third Fourth [third year of camp, fourth year of eligibility to attend camp]. I’m taking math. Before that, I took math. And before that, I took math. I spent three weeks of the last three years doing math because I love it, and I wanted to be exposed to this community that loves math — I just don’t have that at home. This year, I’m doing discrete mathematics.

What are some highlights from class so far?

Nick Kang of Bowling Green: In Arabic, we were walking down to lunch, and we found this dog. It was a really cute dog, so we named him Archer, and he’s now our mascot. A picture of him we drew the first week is still on our board.

Matt Griffin of Nicholasville: I’m taking Problems You Have Never Solved Before, and it’s really fun. You do a lot of cool activities like egg drops and stuff that you might do in regular science class once or twice a year, but here you do them all the time, and you learn a lot.

Ari Srivastava: In DNA and Genetics, we traveled to Frankfurt and went to a state forensics lab which was really interesting because they explained the process that they use to solve different crimes.

Emma Simpson of Bowling Green: Humanities is totally cool. We dove right in to some heavy topics on the first day, like “Where is God? Is God real? What is religion? How does this impact us?” It was super intense, and it was great to see all these different people’s different perspectives. We’ve also done activities where we have to take a concept and depict it — like on the first day, we drew what we think happens after death, and the second day we drew our interpretation of evil.

Danilo Mendoza of Pendleton: I’m in Problems You Have Never Solved Before. We did cross bows, which was really cool. We had a limited amount of materials like popsicle sticks and rubber bands, so we had to figure out a way to use those to somehow eject a straw out of a cross bow. It was really interesting to figure out how that works.

Zane Woodell: In Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, definitely the best part is working on the projects because I get to meet new people, and I’m also contributing to something. I’m on the prosecution for the trial of Hitler. It’s also been really interesting to see the evolution of the mural project from not even having an idea to putting it on canvas.

How is VAMPY is different from regular school?

Abby Adams-Smith of Bowling Green: You choose what to study. It’s really focused on something you’re genuinely interested in. The size is great too — I’ve had classes at school with 30-odd people, and now my Writing class has six people. And the people here are universally kind.

Hannah Jawed of Corbin: With this community, you could pick anything, and you would get so many different viewpoints from so many different people, and everyone would listen. We’re all one big group, and that’s something I love so much and will cherish forever

Anna Maddux of Pembroke: I’m taking Problems You Have Never Solved Before. Our teacher is really good at giving us feedback and helping us figure out how to make improvements.

Karina Sheth of Brentwood, TN: I’m taking DNA and Genetics. The teacher finds concepts that match our interests rather than just going through a curriculum that we’re supposed to be going through.

Arden Ensor of Lexington: The biggest thing is that everyone here wants to learn, and everyone is at relatively the same level of learning, so it’s really easy to go in depth into things. It’s a much better environment because everyone is doing it together as a class.

How was the D.C trip?

Hannah Jawed: For Pop Culture, we went to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. A curator met with us, and he took us to the vault to see items that weren’t on display yet [see story here]. Then we each got to do a presentation we had been working on for the past two weeks about a pop culture object on display in the museum, and it was really interesting to see how educated we were about these objects. We also got the opportunity to see a folk festival on the national mall — one side was for Catalonia and the other was for Armenia, and they had dancing and music. The bus ride back was really fun because we had these three classes all together. We were were all tired, but we made the best of it.

Finn Graham of Pittsburgh, PA: For Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, it was fun seeing all the monuments and the Natural History Museum — D.C. is really nice. The Holocaust Museum was really eye opening — very, very intense. Sleeping on the bus was like sleeping during an earthquake — it just doesn’t happen.

You’re a first-year camper. Has VAMPY met your expectations?

John Kellogg of Bardstown: So far it’s better than what I expected. Mainly, I thought the class [Math] would get a bit repetitive for six hours a day for three weeks, but it hasn’t. It’s a really interesting experience.

Danilo Mendoza: Everybody seems to fit together. It’s a bunch of people who understand you and all have kind of the same outlook.

Erik Chou of Kennett Square, PA: I’m taking Computer Science because I just joined a robotics team, so I need to learn how to code. I thought it would be easier, but in fact it’s challenging.

Matt Griffin of Nicholasville: My class — Problems You Have Never Solved Before — is very fun. I’d say there’s a lot of walking I didn’t expect. It’s good for your health, but … [His tablemates laughed and agreed.]

What have been some highlights outside of class so far?

Elizabeth Pitts of Hopkinsville: Just all of it, because I wanted to come here last year and couldn’t because I was overseas, and this is my tenth-grade year. Being here is a dream come true.

Reece Dicken of Glasgow: The Optionals are my favorite. We did this really fun one called Rush Week where we went around chanting our frat’s chant, and we made shirts.

Abbie Knapp of Richmond: My favorite Optional was called Jurassic Park, the Fall of VAMPY. Basically, one of the counselors got an inflatable T-Rex suit, and we all pretended to be dinosaurs. We went around to the other Optionals, caused havoc for three seconds, and left.

Selenah Travis of Bowling Green: Hall time is great. We get to bond with each other and make new friends and learn new games. I like Egyptian Rat Slap.

Hannah Greenway of Bowling Green: Hall time is the best— I usually play cards with my hall mates. My favorite is James Bond [Editor’s Note: according to my very informal poll, James Bond is the card game of the summer, followed closely by Egyptian Rat Slap.]

Ari Srivastava: Outside of class, I’ve really liked VCon and Paper Theater and all the ways created for us to meet new people. It’s different from school because you don’t know many people here, so you meet campers that are in the same boat.

Finn Graham: Meeting new people is the best part. Everyone’s from a different background, and everyone’s really accepting. It’s a really nice community.

Neo Nathoo of Bowling Green: I loved the dance. I liked being with my friends and dancing with them. The best song they played was “All Star” by Smashmouth. Everyone sang.

Olivia Moore of Bowling Green: The dance was a highlight because it was really fun, but it was also really sad because the fourth-years are leaving, so it was kind of a melancholy event. I danced — I don’t dance at school dances, but at VAMPY you can be who you are instead of being awkward. I feel like I’m around people I know and like and can be comfortable with.

Alice Whitaker of Bowling Green: When my team won the Olympics, I screamed louder than I’ve ever screamed before.

Taylor Galavotti: Our sister and brother hall won the Olympics, so that was really exciting. We were Belize, and when they announced we had won, everybody from our hallway jumped up and started yelling, and our two counselors, Sara and Jake, ran down. It was such a great time — it was like, “Yeah, we did this! Yeah, these are my friends! Yeah, I’m at this camp and I love it!”

Editor’s note: It was a delight and a privilege to talk to your children and to observe them in their classes for the last three weeks. Campers call VAMPY the best three weeks of summer; it’s one of the best parts of my year as well.