Kids get taste of college at SOU

Two groups of middle school students from throughout Oregon sat at separate tables in a Southern Oregon University dormitory, their hands poised in the air.

A counselor read out the Brain Bowl question about ratios: For the problem 9/18 = x/30, what is x?

Students at one table slapped their hands down quickly, edging out their rivals at the other table to win the chance to answer the question.

"What is 15?" Jason Rathbone of Damascus called out, getting the right answer.

"Wait! It's not 'Jeopardy,'" the middle school student added, laughing at himself.

The Wednesday night Brain Bowl competition came after a day crammed with fun and educational classes for the talented and gifted middle school students who converged on SOU this week for ACADEMY.

On Sunday, a new batch of kids will start a weeklong stay at ACADEMY, which has been giving young students a preview of campus life at SOU for 30 years.

Eagle Point student Cole Johnston, who is attending this week's session, said he's been enjoying dodgeball, Brain Bowl, lunch, fencing and an entomology class titled "Just to Bug You."

Kids get to handle real bugs and build robotic insects.

"We held a Madagascar hissing cockroach. I was holding it in my hand and my friend touched it and it ran up my arm," Johnston said, demonstrating how the insect darted up toward his neck. "They hiss out of holes in their sides."

Helen Thieme of Medford said her favorite class has been "'Up' with Cartooning." Kids build their art skills by drawing cartoons from sources such as the movie "Up" and manga — Japanese-style comic books.

"I draw on my own, but I've never taken a class," Thieme said.

Matthew Milward of Damascus, Benjamin Briesmeisten of Central Point and Tim Smith of Coquille sounded like old friends as they talked about one of their favorite classes, "Heroes of the Sky." The class combines mythology with the science of stars.

They said the red giant Betelgeuse is one of the stars in the constellation Orion.

The three hadn't known each other before the start of ACADEMY.

Smith said he was a little nervous about all the new kids at first, but noted, "It's fun after the first hour."

ACADEMY Director Dan Woodward, an SOU alumnus, said everything about the program is designed to replicate the college experience.

Students and parents usually learn about the program through information sent to schools or by contacting SOU.

To get in, kids have to submit an application form, three letters of recommendation, achievement test results, a grade report, a student essay and a $25 application fee.Tuition, which includes room and board, is $650, although tuition help is available.

"Everything is designed to give the college feel — from the application process to acceptance to getting dropped off by Mom and Dad in front of the dorms," Woodward said.

For more information about ACADEMY, visit or call 541-552-6326.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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