Summer Activities Heat Up at TTU

Cheerleaders chant, basketballs pound, instruments blare and competition is fierce -- it's all part of Tennessee Technological University opening its doors to summertime fun and learning.

About 8,000 visitors to Tennessee Tech's campus will be cheering, performing, studying, playing ball or just looking around during camps, conferences and visits this summer.

"Hosting team camps gives a university a tremendous advantage in recruiting both athletically and academically," said Jeff Lebo, Tennessee Tech's new men's head basketball coach. "Hundreds of students, particularly from Georgia and Alabama, attend camp and make a visit to campus they wouldn't ordinarily make."

Sports camps this summer account for about 2,800 high school students visiting campus, according to Tennessee Tech's sports information director Rob Schabert. The women's basketball camp draws about 1,000; the men's camp attracts about 1,500. Baseball, tennis and women's volleyball camps each draw about 100 students.

The 1,500 cheerleaders and dance camp participants are the most noticeable groups during June. Most of the campers live within 150 miles of campus, but many are making their first visit. Past studies indicate their campus memories encourage one of five participants to enroll at Tennessee Tech, according to Debra Combs, university Fitness Center office supervisor. As an extra incentive, each fall the Fitness Center offers six to eight campers one-semester housing scholarships through monies generated by camp photos.

Earlier this summer, American Legion Boys' State brought more than 600 high school juniors from across the state for a week's stay. Tennessee Tech faculty, staff and administrators serve as counselors and organizers for the annual event, making sure they are available to answer any questions about the university. Tennessee Tech band director Joe Hermann directs the Boys' State band each year, and pointed out about 60 percent of those participants return to enroll.

Hermann has high praise for the music and art department's efforts with high school band camps and other summer programs. About 1,200 students arrive for band camps during July, as well as the more than 100 musicians attending the Southeast Chamber Music Institute.

"The campus is lovely and inviting; it's just so positive to have a student on campus for a whole week to experience the best of the university," said Hermann. "The music faculty are enthusiastic, and it's so valuable to have students see that enthusiasm."

Ben Byler, Tennessee Tech's School of Agriculture director, shares the same type of enthusiasm about the facilities and the opportunities his department offers to high school students. The Hyder-Burks Pavilion will host almost 1,000 students during competitions this summer.

"We hosted the Tennessee High School Rodeo Association State Finals for the first time this year," said Byler. "We were able to lure the competition away from the former host because we have such a nice facility. We are able to put our best foot forward to students looking for a university with an agriculture program."

Byler added the Tennessee State Junior Sheep Expo in late July will attract more than 600 participants. He pointed out the value of those competitors and their families spending money in Cookeville for gas, food and lodging.

Not all summer visitors come to compete. The Cumberland Career Equity Program brings together about 35 high school girls throughout the year in an educational and social program that encourages girls to pursue education beyond high school. The group spends a week on campus during the summer taking mini-classes. Half of the program's past participants chose to attend Tennessee Tech.

The Young Scholars Program brings about 30 students to the university each summer. Tony Marable, director of the Minority Engineering Program, estimates an average of 12-15 percent who explore the university's offerings through this program enroll at Tennessee Tech.

The university's Extended Education office and the Appalachian Center for Crafts offer a wide range of summer programs to increase community participation at the university. And, about 300 prospective students and their families will take a campus tour, some making a scheduled visit, some just dropping by, according Tennessee Tech admissions counselor Jim Gray.

So if many of the faces you see on campus this summer look a little too young to belong to college students, chances are they're having fun, experiencing campus life a little early and taking home some positive memories of Cookeville and Tennessee Tech.