From lectures to team building to serving in the community, 51 students from 15 states get a taste of college life at LENS@Wake Forest, a three-week pre-college sustainability program.
High school students who are accepted to attend LENS (Learn. Experience. Navigate. Solve.) live on campus, study sustainability and apply this knowledge to the community by partnering with organizations throughout Winston-Salem.
Students work in small groups to tackle the sustainability-related needs of five community partners. At the end of the three weeks, the small student groups present a final project offering solutions to their assigned community group.
“LENS trains tomorrow’s college students for today’s issues,” said Leigh Stanfield, director of LENS @ Wake Forest and global campus programs. “These high school students have the opportunity to live and learn in a collegiate setting, while immersing themselves in the Winston-Salem community and making a difference.”
Gateway to leadership
As a rising senior at North Forsyth High School in Winston-Salem, Jess Morales wanted to take a closer look at the college experience while learning more about sustainability and her community.
“I have been most impressed with how collaborative the Wake Forest faculty have been,” Morales said. “I have met a lot of amazing people and appreciate that I’m learning and applying my knowledge and interest in sustainability to my community, which will have a lasting impact.”
Will Huesman, a Wake Forest junior, is one of the program advisors for LENS and mentors the 10 LENS students working with the Gateway Environmental Movement Initiative. The community organization is creating a nature preserve and environmental education center on a 19-acre site just south of downtown. The students are researching and generating sustainable design ideas for a nature center building to be constructed on the site and then providing recommendations for how to best use the building and surrounding acreage.
“My hope is to stay involved with LENS during my time at Wake Forest,” said Huesman, a history major. “I am grateful for the leadership and vision that LENS provides, and I have a better appreciation and knowledge for sustainability.”
When exploring summer internship opportunities, he sought a program that would offer leadership growth and the chance to learn more about sustainability. With previous camp experience, he has found himself keeping in touch with those who have mentored him and wanted to give back as a mentor to LENS students.
“These students perspectives are invaluable,” said Cornelia Barr, founder and board chair of the Gateway Environmental Movement Initiative. “This site can have huge community potential and we are eager to hear what these student leaders recommend.”
Three weeks of firsts
“LENS has provided a lot of firsts for me – even my first plane ride – but I didn’t realize that within the first week we would be so understanding of each other’s ideas,” said Robert Thigpen, a rising high school senior from Memphis, Tenn. “It has been so encouraging to be a part of this intellectually diverse group of students working together to better a community.”
Thigpen was eager to get involved in a leadership program during the summer and to see everything that Wake Forest has to offer.
Eric Stottlemyer, a LENS faculty director who is in his second year of teaching English at Wake Forest, got involved with the program because his primary academic focus is literature in the environment. He made it his goal to encourage the students to engage in the experience and to spark a desire to improve the environment.
“My hope is to provide an accurate glimpse of college life,” said Stottlemyer. “The LENS experience is so different from what these students have ever known. My goal is that I foster these students as they explore creative and intellectual freedoms, so that each of them has the opportunity to think critically on their own.”