Camp for gifted students planned at OWU


One of the courses offered to this summer’s OWjL campers promises a “real-life version” of the board game “Life” as it teaches financial-planning fundamentals to its audience of gifted-and-talented central Ohio middle schoolers.

The course’s “real-life” description could easily be applied to the entire camp, which this year celebrates its 36th year of helping the sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders to understand that “it’s OK to be smart” and that other students have the same thoughts and feelings as they do, said Susan Paxton, executive director of the residential, academic camp, which is held on the Ohio Wesleyan University campus.

Paxton said one former camper reflected that her OWjL experience “made me realize I am not alone in my obsession with academics and there are numerous children who do not share a strong social bond with the people around them. It helped me realize that my uniqueness and individuality is what ties me to the people around me, not what separates me.”

“Learning this life lesson is very reassuring and empowering for these young people, who previously may not have met others like them,” Paxton said.

During their week at OWjL camp, the middle-schooler students choose from among more than 60 classes designed to challenge their skills in the creative arts and humanities as well as in science, mathematics, and computers/logic.

In addition to “It’s All About the Benjamins,” with its financial-planning insights, other classes allow the campers to use science to solve a “Murder in the Chem Lab,” to practice their skills as lawyers in “You’re on Trial,” and even to help guide the nation’s future as part of “You’re in Congress.”

Many students also will get to meet former OWjL camper Christopher Kirchhoff, Ph.D., who credits the experience with helping to put him on a career trajectory that has included serving with the National Security Council, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the White House Chief of Staff’s office. Today, Kirchhoff is one of four partners overseeing the Pentagon’s Silicon Valley Office, Defense Innovation Unit X, and its $100-million investment portfolio harnessing emerging commercial technology for national security innovation.

Pronounced “owl,” the camp’s acronym stands for Ohio Wesleyan/Junior League of Columbus, which founded the program. OWjL was created following a two-year study that determined gifted-and-talented middle schoolers were underserved during the school year with programs to promote discovery and foster skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, research, leadership, and communication. Ohio Wesleyan is the camp’s sponsor.

More than 540 students will participate this summer, and nearly 15,000 children have benefited from OWjL experiences since the camp began in 1981. This year’s three weeklong OWjL camp sessions run from June 11-16 (grades six and seven), June 18-23 (grades seven and eight), and June 25-30 (grades six and seven).

Students invited to attend the camp are nominated by principals, guidance counselors, or teachers from schools in Delaware, Fairfield, Franklin, Licking, Madison, Marion, Morrow, Pickaway, and Union counties. The students all have earned high test scores and demonstrated exceptional talent, creativity, and/or leadership.

In addition to being nominated, the students must write an essay, which is read and scored by two readers, as part of the competitive selection process.

OWjL campers enjoy a game at a previous OWjL Camp. campers enjoy a game at a previous OWjL Camp.

Staff report

Learn more about the camp, its history, and its impact on campers and their families at

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