Children are taking summer classes at the university without a high school diploma.
Although they won’t be receiving college credits, the theatre department’s youth summer program offers workshops to develop them physically, mentally and artistically.
Entering its 16th year, the program will welcome students going into 3rd through 9th grade by offering courses such as musical theater, make up, improvisations and mask and movement.
Students participate in a creative drama session in which they write plays that are shown in a Friday night performance. It’s designed to show the culmination of their knowledge from throughout the week.
“We found out a lot of parents like the fact that instead of kids saying ‘Hey, we did this today,’ they can just show them everything they’ve learned,” said theater professor Ric Roberts.
The final performance usually draws in a crowd of 600 people and fills the theatre.
Although they aren’t Cardinals during the camp, some students from the camp become students at the University after graduation.
By making connections with other University students and faculty, they become comfortable on campus.
“We didn’t set out for it to turn into a recreation tool, but it definitely has turned out to be one,” Roberts said.
About 75 students will participate in a weeklong camp that get children away from home.
“It’s interesting because attendance seems to depend on how high gas prices are,” Roberts said.
He said when prices come close to $4 per gallon, attendance drops.
The annual return rate remains at about 80 percent, with many returning five or more years.
“We do not advertise at all,” Roberts said. “It’s on the SVSU theatre website, but we don’t push it.”
Roberts said the time the courses are held works well for parents.
It’s operated during the times of a normal university business day, when parents would typically take their children to daycare while they’re at work.
According to Roberts, the camp provides a more beneficial experience for the children.
He believes its success is a result of the quality of programming.
“I have students that get things out of this that they don’t get in their high school theater,” he said.
While most students come from the immediate five-county area, some travel as far as Maine for the program.
Other students are home schooled and might not otherwise have access to the arts.
Many university theatre students who are interested in gaining experience working with young children volunteer at the event.
The department used to feature a high school theatre camp, but was canceled due to lack of interest.
“Fifteen years ago, they would find it more interesting. Now they work, so we let that one go,” Roberts said.
The cost for the camp is $225, which includes the courses, lunches at Marketplace at Doan, a T-shirt and afternoon snacks.
The camp offers a $50 discount for university faculty and staff. Around 40 percent of campers are children of faculty and staff.
“All of them are colleagues so we know each other,” Roberts said. “So it certainly helps in recruiting.”
The camp is June 25 through June 29.