Recently, the student-run Honors College organization Focusing on College and Unlimited Success (FOCUS) held its annual college immersion program for ninth graders from local under-resourced schools. Working with the Baton Rouge Youth Coalition (BRYC), FOCUS aims to preserve the humanities programs often cut from school curricula by allowing students to take workshops and seminars in dance, music, art, theatre, philosophy, and creative writing.
FOCUS participants live on LSU’s campus, attend daily seminars and workshops taught exclusively by Honors College students (a.k.a. the “college leaders”), and develop a final project during their FOCUS period that is presented at the end of the two-week seminar.
Each day of FOCUS is filled with opportunities for learning and growth — both as a student and as a creative individual. But in order to really know what a typical day of FOCUS is like, it’s best to ask the students themselves:
8:00-9:00 a.m. — Breakfast in Blake Hall
9:00-10:30 a.m. — First Seminar
Sara Cage, age 14
If I had to describe FOCUS in one word, it would be fun-loving! FOCUS is fun-loving because of the talented and down-to-earth people you meet. You also get to do fun activities that take strategy and teamwork while embracing talents you never thought you had.
You participate in six different seminars (three each day): dance, painting, creative writing, music, sketching and theater … Each FOCUS day is educationally entertaining as you learn something in each seminar. All of the seminars are great, but my favorite seminar days would be in our music seminar. We learned different parts of a song like the chorus, bridge, and verse, and we used our knowledge of that in our “Parts of a Song Game.” We received extra points for our extraordinary dance moves and instruments that we made in our seminar.
Of course, we ended our great music seminar with an epic dance circle. We even used our instruments to enliven the mood … As you can tell, it's never an average day of a human being. This is a day in the life of FOCUS.
10:30 a.m. -12:00 p.m. — Second Seminar
Matthew Kinsey, age 16
The next seminar was dancing, which I wasn’t that good at first but it made me change and everyone was having fun. That was the best experience, and I hope I could get to do it again.
The dance seminar was a bit hard at first, because I didn’t think it was going to be like a ballet-type of dance. But [we started with] ballet, which was just a first step — and to me, it was actual fun.
We started to then do this dance to a Michael Jackson song, which was fun. It took us one week to complete the first half. But I got really dizzy when we were spinning!
12:00-2:00 p.m. — Senior College Lunch
Isiah Harbor, age 15
My favorite lunch was the College of Business lunch. I say that because they had a game and some good old fashioned pizza for lunch. But the game helped us out with learning more about the history of Louisiana and LSU. It was called “Jeopardy” — if we answered a question in the 500 or 400 category, we would get a prize bag. If we answered a question from categories 100, 200, or 300, we’d get candy. Some of the categories were "LSU Business Questions,” “Who is this person?” and “Where was this found?"
I’d like to major in business when I start college and hopefully open up my own business dealing with technology, graphic design, and electronics.
Overall, we all had fun and walked out with a little more knowledge and food in our stomachs.
2:00-3:30 p.m. — Third Seminar
3:30-5:30 p.m. — FOCUS Period
On the first day of FOCUS, students chose a FOCUS area from the six seminars, simulating the experience of choosing a college major. During the daily FOCUS period, students spent two hours working on their individual projects for Final FOCUS Friday (held the last day of the program). Painting and sketching students made original art projects, creative writing students wrote poetry, music students composed a song, dance students developed and rehearsed original choreography, and theater students worked together to write a play.
5:30-7:00 p.m. — Dinner in the LSU Dining Hall
7:00-8:30 p.m. — Workshop
The nightly workshops, led by the Honors College group leaders, were designed to be both fun and educational. FOCUS students took workshops in cooking, nutrition, and science. For the science workshop, students learned lab safety and how to grow bacteria cultures on petri dishes before developing original hypotheses and conducting an experiment.
8:30-9:30 p.m. — Group Competition
Emma Lacy, age 16
My favorite group competition at FOCUS was "The Recycled Fashion Show." My group — group three — had a lot of fun. The group decorated me in a fabulous box draped with a beautiful, black torn garbage bag. Then they surrounded my gorgeous, creative outfit with caution tape. Now, for the finishing touches, my team added a sparkling bracelet with matching glasses — and a crown to match.
The fashion show was my favorite group competition because we were able to be goofy and creative. The fashion show allowed us to show our true goofy talents, and it allowed us to be creative with a different perspective. Not only were we designing our own clothes, but we were also designing our clothes from scrap materials (like cardboard boxes and garbage bags).
9:30-10:00 p.m. — Group Meeting
Each day closed with the group meetings, during which college leaders and FOCUS students sat down together and discussed their days — what they liked, what they didn’t like, and what they had to look forward to in the days ahead.
Story by Elizabeth Clausen, who writes for the LSU Honors College and served as the Sketching Seminar Leader for FOCUS 2011 and FOCUS 2012.