For two weeks out of the summer, middle school students from all over Elkhart County have the opportunity to come to Goshen College to be sports journalists.
From July 10-21, students going into seventh or eighth grade next fall are invited to participate in the Write on Sports camp.
Led by three certified teachers (two from Goshen Middle School and one from Concord Elementary) and three Goshen College student interns, students get the chance to interview guest athletes and write stories on a deadline.
Students and staff also take a field trip to South Bend to visit the University of Notre Dame and a South Bend Cubs game where they get to interview a few of the players before the game starts.
Throughout the camp, students will have stories published on the camp blog and a magazine feature printed in the camp magazine. They will also be completing video shorts, which are shared on the last day of camp.
Duane Stoltzfus, professor of communications and director of the camp, is responsible for lining up the guest athletes, like Malik Zaire, a quarterback for Notre Dame, and visiting journalists from The Goshen News and The Elkhart Truth.
“Summer is often a time for people to go on vacation, and often, they lose ground academically,” Stoltzfus said. “Through a camp like this, we give students a chance to instead advance their skills especially in writing and interviewing. The best part of the package is it happens while students are in a summer camp that’s fun.”
The model for the Write on Sports camp comes from New Jersey, where Byron Yake, a Goshen College graduate, began the program in 2005. This is the fifth year for the Goshen Write on Sports camp.
This year’s camp sees a return of the full teaching staff and the GC interns. Katie Hurst, a junior, served as an intern last summer and will be continuing in that role again this year.
“I chose to help out again this summer because I really did enjoy my time with the kids,” she said. “I enjoyed spending time working with them and seeing the essays come together.”
As an intern, Hurst was tasked with assisting students with their writing, taking photos, managing the group of students and putting a book of published essays from the camp together. Each kid gets a copy of the essays to take home at the end of the camp.
“The best thing about it was seeing the kids’ improvement in just two short weeks,” Hurst said, “and realizing that they took two weeks out of their summer to focus on a skill that will only help them out in the future.”
Karen Ramos, a first-year, also served as an intern last summer and plans to help out again in July.
“I love seeing younger students pursue their passions and dreams,” Ramos said. “I was in their place once upon a time, and this camp wasn’t available to my generation. Now that it exists, I want to give everything to the future broadcasters of the world, the future journalists.”
Ramos and the other interns provided students with mentors other than the teachers, but they also provide support for the teachers. Last year, Ramos was also responsible for putting the students’ projects together into a DVD.
“I hope that students find their voices,” she said. “I hope that at the end students are able to walk away with one thing that they can hold onto for the rest of their lives.”
Last year, the camp had a high of 25 students participate, and Stoltzfus is hoping for 30 this year, the maximum capacity of the camp.
“We’ve had good success in seeing students return for a second year,” he said, “which is a confirmation that this model really delivers what it promises.”
Students from last summer had good things to say about the camp. The field trip to Notre Dame and the Cubs game was especially memorable for many.
“I wouldn’t change a thing at camp,” one participant said. “It was great to learn more about interview and sports writing.”
Stoltzfus is looking forward to this summer’s camp.
“There are moments of magic in the course of the weeks as you see the students interact with the guests,” he said. “Every summer, a camp has its own personality as you combine a unique group of students with our staff and a group of guest athletes and journalists. Every summer it’s a different mix, and in that, you just have possibility of a different kind of magic.”