By Susan Shinn, Catawba College News Service
What do you get when you mix 24 college students, a tour of an historic downtown, teambuilding, a city high school and an ecotour hosted by Captain Joe? The West Scholars' first-year trip from Catawba College to Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach.
This is the third group or cohort of West Scholars. Each year, each class takes one excursion together.
The trip was led by the program's co-directors, Dr. Cynthia Osterhus and Dr. Bonita Bloodworth. Other Catawba faculty and staff who attended were Dr. Rhonda Truitt, Jane Snider and Carol Dorsett.
The two dozen students gave up their fall break, Oct. 17-20, to participate.
The trip has evolved over the years, Osterhus said.
"The first year, we had students out in the woods with nothing to do but teaming," she said.
Then the class numbers kept growing — there are now 48 West Scholars altogether — and the retreat center the college used was no longer available.
"We were trying to get two trips in one — a trip and a retreat," Bloodworth said. Where we were gives them a little more freedom. But we were all together in one house."
The students did all their own cooking, Osterhus said. "There were good common areas and there were good nooks and crannies, too."
Osterhus and Bloodworth chose Wilmington because of its historic downtown, and also because of the Lyceum Academy, a school-within-a-school at New Hanover High School.
The students' first activity upon arriving was to complete a scavenger hunt in downtown Wilmington.
Most of the students had just met one another before their first teambuilding exercise.
"They had to work together," Bloodworth said.
The students were broken into three groups to complete this task.
"When we were set free in historic downtown Wilmington, the eight of us barely knew each other," Jeremy Gardner of Harrisburg wrote in his blog. "After just an hour and a half, we all had many stories to tell about each other.
"The highlight of our adventure came at the newly constructed Armed Forces Memorial, where we noticed a very unfortunate spelling error on a marble bench. All in all, it was a blast."
Osterhus wanted students to see an educational program that was garnering publicity for being cutting-edge. That was the case with the academy. Dorsett contacted the school to arrange for a visit.
Dorsett found a Catawba connection in Wilmington. The chairman of the New Hanover County school board is a Catawba graduate.
The Lyceum's dean, Gordon Massengill, met with the students the Sunday evening before they were to visit the school on Monday.
The Lyceum has 100 juniors and 86 seniors. Altogether, the high school has an enrollment of 1,617. Students follow a different schedule each day, and team teaching is accomplished by an integration of all subjects. Students return to the main campus for electives.
Students participate in small group experiences, project-based learning and authentic learning, along with taking a number of cultural and educational trips.
"One Lyceum class I observed had a missing teacher who was out sick with the flu," Jessica Everett of Winston-Salem wrote in her blog. "Instead of having a substitute, Lyceum students received directions to work on their group projects and this period became a study hall in the teacher's absence.
"My presence went unnoticed as the students actually sat down and worked quietly together on their group projects without disruptions."
To tie in with the college's strong commitment to the environment, students took an ecotour of Masonboro Island with Captain Joe Abbatte.
The group learned about the importance of sea oats, and Abbatte talked about the many different shells and birds in the area.
The students' time wasn't all structured. There was time for volleyball and swimming, sleeping and just chilling out.
"They were well mannered and well behaved," Bloodworth said. "It didn't feel too much like work."
"I couldn't have asked for any more from the students," Osterhus said. "They became a group."
Lizzie Davis of East Bend described the West Scholars retreat as "strengthening."
"During our time on the beach, we effectively bonded and defined what being a true West Scholar is," Davis wrote in her blog. "We participated in carefully chosen activities, such as an intriguing name game, that served as an enabler for us to learn more about each other, as well as ourselves.
"Dr. Osterhus also introduced us to challenges, such as juggling, tower building and culture testing, that taught us to think outside our comfortable boundaries. They also were a way for us to discover how the power of innovative, team-motivated thinking can plow through many of our boundaries."
Other first-year West Scholars who attended included:
Lauretta Andrews, Kannapolis; Amelia Baity, Hamptonville; Aubrey Barton, Salisbury; Casey Baucom, Marshville; Gavin Blakey, Madison; Seth Caison, Graham; Heather Cheek, Ramseur; Jennifer Collins, Mount Airy; Whitney Corriher, Salisbury; Dan Eron, Chapel Hill; Christina Faircloth, Belmont; Jordan Farmer, Walnut Creek; Lindsay Frye, China Grove; Hannah Gagnier, China Grove; Denise Grissom, Stokesdale; Jarrett Jackson, Huntersville; Amber Massey, Mebane; Maggie McKee, Mount Airy; Brittany Myers, Shelby; Amanda Terry, Cordova; Suzy Williams, Efland.
Osterhus and Bloodworth began planning the trip in the spring, working together with Dorsett via e-mail all summer.
Osterhus and Bloodworth will accompany the sophomore cohort to Atlanta in January and the junior cohort to Washington, D.C., and New York City in the spring.
The criteria for West Scholars includes a minimum SAT score of 1000 and a GPA of 3.4. The newest class of West Scholars has average SAT scores greater than 1100 and average GPAs of 4.0.
West Scholars receive $15,000 toward in-state tuition and $13,000 toward out-of-state tuition. They must make a commitment to teaching, and remain in a licensing program. They participate in monthly seminars, school visits and service projects.
"Participation is a big part of the program," Osterhus said.
PHOTOS: Teaching Scholars in Wilmington, NC