School's out, but that doesn't mean that every student has taken a vacation. Some teens are trading lazy summer days on the couch for lessons inside classrooms.
"Once you get out into the real world, there won't be any summer breaks. You just keep going," said Christopher Lyons, 17, a rising senior at John S. Davidson Fine Arts School, who has chosen to spend his summer with the Upward Bound summer residential program at Paine College.
As part of the national college preparatory program, Christopher and 120 Richmond County students attend class from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and take many of the courses they will enroll in during the fall. Upward Bound students also tour college campuses, familiarize themselves with the application process and are exposed to activities that teach life skills.
While those in Upward Bound also participate in a year-round program to help them prepare for college, the summer residential program, where students stay on Paine's campus, also acts as a bridge to the next school year.
"That first three weeks (of the fall) it's that adjustment period. Your hands are all shaky, you haven't picked up a pencil all summer or opened a book," said Christopher, who is spending his third summer in Upward Bound. "Because of Upward Bound, we don't have that. We're ready. We can go in and write an essay on the first day. We're used to it."
Getting that edge is what most students get out of summer academic programs, said Earnestine Bell, the program director for Upward Bound.
"What do they say, 'An idle mind is the devil's workshop'? I know students don't have anything to do in the summer but programs like this help them so much in the fall. They come back and say, 'I'm ahead of everyone in the class,'" Ms. Bell said.
Shacoya Hankinson, 17, a rising senior at A. R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School, agreed that spending six weeks in the program gives participants an advantage.
"You're ready to go back to school," she said. "You feel you have it handled."
Even waking up early and going to class all day isn't that bad, she said.
"It's a full day but after you get started you get used to it," Shacoya said.
There also are friends to be made and enjoyed, said Dryus Tillman, 16, a rising junior at Hephzibah High School.
"You learn a lot but it's fun, too," he said.
Mia Reid, 17, a rising senior at A.R. Johnson who spent her first two days in this summer's program learning functions, domains and ranges for her math class, said she doesn't look at enrolling in a summer academic program as missing out.
"I enjoy it," she said. "And I enjoy my summer, too. While doing the work, you still have your friends. It's preparing you."
For Guilly Rebagay, 16, the decision to participate in a summer academic program was about the preparation.
"I'll do anything that can enhance my knowledge," the rising senior at Augusta Preparatory School said, "even if it's during the summer. You have to do something."
Guilly said he chose to take a general chemistry course at Harvard University's Summer School. The eight-week session will include lectures in the morning and labs in the afternoon at the prestigious institution.
"That's just Monday through Friday; I have weekends off," Guilly said. "I can go visit places in the Northeast with the friends I'll make and they (Harvard) sponsor visits to other colleges in the area."
It's a great opportunity, Guilly said, especially because attending Harvard has always been a dream. He's certain a summer program in chemistry for college credit would look great on his transcript and rsum.
It's worth the weekdays not spent poolside, and even with a final exam on what would be the first day of senior year at Augusta Prep, Guilly said.
"I'm excited," he said. "Some people think I'm crazy, but I just tell them it's me, that's how I work. I love to learn."
Students don't need to sign up for full-fledge summer programs to escape brain drain during vacation. Both credit and noncredit courses, such as those offered at area colleges, are great alternatives that give students the chance to build on their knowledge.
"A short course is a wonderful thing to keep your brain in gear," said Arlene Schler, the program coordinator for the division of Continuing Education at Augusta State University which offers noncredit courses in everything from SAT Prep to stained-glass making. "It's kind of tickling your creative self and branching out," she said.
Taking a class also is a way to beat the summer blues, Guilly said.
"It's better than just sitting home watching TV or getting caught in the daily mundane activities, especially in the South where it can get pretty hot and you don't want to go out," he said. "I experienced that, summer of my freshman year. You just get bored. I don't want to be bored. Why not just learn something instead?"
Students won't be missing much if they take Guilly's advice and enroll in a summer academic program, Christopher said.
"The couch and television aren't going anywhere," he said. "They'll still be there when you get home on the weekend."
Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.