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North Park University Hosts CPS Summer Writing Camp

Gwen Munoz-Arroyo
Senior Gwen Munoz-Arroyo is leading the University's Summer Writing Camp, helping Chicago high school students prepare for the college application process.

Next year's high school seniors work on essays for college applications


CHICAGO (July 25, 2013) — This summer, North Park University has been partnering with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to help next year’s high school seniors with their college application process. For four weeks, students have gathered in the University’s Brandel Library to work on writing skills for personal statements and essays, cover letters, and resumes needed for school and scholarship applications. They’ve also had the opportunity to meet and learn from current North Park students, faculty, and staff, getting a firsthand look at the college experience.

North Park University senior Gwen Munoz-Arroyo is heading up the program, having designed it alongside Carol Martin, the University’s Writing Center director, and Annette Moy, director of outreach programs and international admission, who works closely with Chicago Public Schools’ college and career specialists. “Through collaborations like this we’re trying to answer the question, ‘What do high school students need to get ready for college?’” Moy said.

“One of our biggest goals is that students will end the program with something complete—a solid essay or personal statement that they can use as a framework or example for other applications and essays,” Munoz-Arroyo said. “We want to help students in the community and local high schools with their goal of getting into college.”

Juniors from the high schools in CPS’s north/northwest network were invited to participate in the Summer Writing Camp, two hours a day, three days a week. This voluntary, free program drew 15 to 20 students each week. They followed a syllabus that moved through the process of researching schools and scholarships; developing a personal life timeline to help tell their own unique stories; goal-setting; understanding college applications; and writing personal statements, essays, resumes, and cover letters.

Jolene Del Rosario will be a senior at Lane Tech High School in the fall, and wants to be a nurse. She chose to attend the Summer Writing Camp to improve her writing skills and work on her applications for colleges and scholarships. Del Rosario plans to stay in the Chicago area for school, and has spent much of the summer getting organized for her college search.

“I’ve been visiting colleges and doing more research this summer, paying attention to deadlines so I don’t miss opportunities,” she said. She said the Summer Writing Camp fit right in with these plans. “Participating in this program gives me a great advantage. I get a head start on application and scholarship essays,” she said.

The Summer Writing Camp has been a “great collaboration,” according to Moy. “Students are getting ready for their college searches during their senior years, meeting other students, and getting in touch with North Parkers,” she said. “Not only are we exposing future college students to North Park, we’re giving back to the community in an area where our resources meet a real need.”

Munoz-Arroyo is a psychology major (minoring in music in worship) and has worked as a writing advisor in the Writing Center for the past two years. She is also one of the student co-coordinators for the Center and working with the Summer Writing Camp has been a natural progression from these activities, giving her valuable leadership experience and internship credit. Munoz-Arroyo said she wasn’t looking for a “typical” psychology internship; after volunteering with a nonprofit organization tutoring individuals going through the process of applying for U.S. citizenship, she knew she wanted to work directly with people in an educational setting again.

As she is developing daily lesson plans, teaching skills and concepts, and working one-on-one with students completing writing exercises, Munoz-Arroyo is reminded of being in their shoes not too long ago. “It takes me back to how intimidating writing essays for college applications was for me, as well,” she said.

Working alongside Munoz-Arroyo and the students are a team of Writing Advisors, University faculty and staff that lead focused workshops, and career and college coaches from Chicago Public Schools.

Patrick Phelan, the college and career coach at Foreman High School, spent a week at the Writing Camp providing feedback and guidance to students. “As college and career coaches, we try to give students knowledge through exploration and experiences so they’re ready to apply for college,” he said, adding that programs like the Summer Writing Camp support these efforts by providing extra enrichment in focused areas. “I love that these things are available for our kids,” Phelan said. “It really is a worthwhile experience for everyone who comes.”

Antonio Samaniego is a rising senior at Kelvyn Park High School. He is anticipating studying physics and math in college—even looking far enough ahead to think about earning a doctoral degree and a career in research. He chose to attend the Summer Writing Camp to work on his writing style, grammar, and development. “Reading and writing have not been my strongest points in high school,” he said, “and I know colleges are interested in seeing these skills on applications.”

“The writing camp has helped me to develop writing skills. I’ve written a lot more here than I’ve ever written before!” Samaniego added.

As the program wraps up, Munoz-Arroyo reflected that it was a challenging internship, but absolutely worth it. “It’s been really rewarding to work with students and to see them coming back each week,” she said. “One of the best things is finding out what they’re passionate about and interested in, and then to help them write about those things in their essays.”


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