Throughout the school year students are caught counting down to one thing: summer. It's a time of freedom. No homework, no teachers and virtually no stress. When school starts up in the fall the question asked isn't "What are you going to do with your school year?" but rather "What did you do with your summer?"
This year my answer is a little different, I went to class.
Why? In short, to earn college credit, but there is a little bit more to my answer than just that.
All throughout last school year, as many high school students do, I received invitations from colleges all over the country to come check out their campus by participating in various programs. Many of them sounded extremely interesting, but the price tags involved, not including the plane tickets, were in the thousands, and quite frankly, I don't have $3,000 just lying around.
I wanted to do something with my summer, but what? Then I got a letter from the University of Utah about a chemistry program for high school students. It involved a lot of work, but the students receive eight hours of college credit. The letter also informed me that if I filled out the application and turned it in on time, I qualified for a scholarship and would be considered for other scholarships to help pay the $1,800 tuition. I decided to apply, figuring I had nothing to lose.
Soon after, I found out that not only had I gained the scholarship for turning in my application, but I was also awarded another scholarship that reduced my tuition fee to $300. As I thought it over, I decided to give the class a shot. It was the kind of summer experience I was looking for. It was something local, so it I didn't have to pay for a plane ticket. I had a scholarship, so it didn't cost a small fortune, and it was a college experience that would look great on applications and put me ahead on college credit.
The first day of summer chemistry rolled around. I woke up bright and early, ready to try my hardest at this new challenge. The class ended up being pretty hard. I was tired and had to keep myself awake through two-hour lectures that often times were far from interesting. I was forced to understand things about chemistry that aren't even covered in AP Chemistry, let alone the regular chemistry course I took during the school year. I also had a lot of homework that would sometimes take up my entire afternoon, but in the end, the class was worth it.
I met students from various schools in Utah who shared an interest in science. I got to do labs using chemicals that many teachers would never trust high school students with. I also gained college experience and learned that I could survive the upcoming years in college.
Many of the labs built up to the final one where we were given eight vials containing various powders. We were given a list of compounds and told to figure out which vial contained which compound. In order to do so we worked as partners using two chemicals of our choosing to identify the mystery powders. It was hard, but really cool at the same time. I used my understanding of chemical reactions and pH to figure out the chemical compounds we were given.
Many wonder why on Earth I would want to take a chemistry class during summer vacation. Usually I just smile and say that it's because I got college credit, but I also enjoy the subject. Chemistry is hard, but I find it interesting. I love science and learning more about how things work, and chemistry is the basis of all of that. It explains how things work on a molecular level. It's behind the reactions of respiration, what makes diamonds hard -- even the scents of your favorite flower. Chemistry is everywhere and it's cool gaining a further understanding of it.
This University of Utah Chemistry Summer Enrichment Program was one experience I will never regret. I learned a lot more than I ever thought I would, and I recommend this course to all science-loving high school students. It is tough, but it's worth it.
Hillary Slaughter is a senior at Layton High School. She loves reading and "the great outdoors." E-mail her at email@example.com.