Grant Lazarovici of Cherry Hill participates in a hands-on science experiment at Rowan University’s Young Profs camp.
GLASSBORO — For parents, it’s the chance to see their children thrive and enjoy life. For educators, it’s an opportunity to see hard work and dedication pay off.
And for the nearly three dozen preteens and teens involved in Rowan University’s second annual Young Profs Exploration Camp, it’s the chance to learn and have fun, all at their own pace.
The camp began on Monday morning, which introduced 29 students with high-functioning autism, Asperger Syndrome or ADHD from Gloucester, Camden and Burlington counties to professors from the college, who are providing fun, hands-on lessons to the students.
“There are more and more students with Aspergers attending Rowan, so we decided to start the camp last year,” said John Woodruff, Rowan University’s disability coordinator.
Last year, the camp hosted 15 students. One moved away, but 10 others returned to camp this year, in addition to 19 new campers, Woodruff said.
“It’s a chance to meet other students like themselves,” Woodruff said. “For some on the autism spectrum, working as a team can be uncomfortable. It’s an opportunity to build social skills for someone who doesn’t go to camp or who wants to do something challenging.”
On Monday, students laughed and smiled while launching bottle rockets in the open field adjacent to Rowan Hall.
West Deptford seventh-grader Kayla Baylor, a return camper, launched her rocket 222 feet on the campus. She said she was excited to come back to Rowan this summer to participate in Young Profs again.
“It’s fun and I’ve made a lot of friends,” Baylor said. “I like the staff. It’s nice, both the activities and friends.”
Baylor said she is looking forward to more educational activities throughout the week, along with the family day on Friday, which signals the close of camp.
Students will also participate in a scavenger hunt, see science experiments come to life, tour the campus radio and television stations, along with dabbling in the arts.
Most of the camp counselors are current Rowan students, or recent graduates. These students keep in touch with the campers year-round, and invite them to other events and activities throughout the year.
Civil and Environmental Engineering student Andrea McFarland returned to camp this summer, spending Monday afternoon showing the students the effects of a chemical reaction in a soda bottle. She said she enjoys seeing the students become engaged in science.
“It’s rewarding and pretty exciting to see them get excited and to get excited about what I enjoy,” she said.
McFarland’s colleague Stephanie Moore joined the camp program this year, saying she is happy to see students work far beyond their limitations.
“I love it. It gives kids something different to do,” Moore said. “It’s incredible to see their drive. They’re not just students with autism. They can do anything they set their minds to.”