In October 2010, I attended the fall retreat for the Emory Scholars program. I was expecting a good lecture on how to make Turkish food, some chilly cabins, a few new friendships, and a campfire with some marshmallows. I was not disappointed; all of these things were incorporated into the schedule. (Although I will say that the campfire was a little tame for me. I am used to instigating blazing furnaces in the backwoods of middle Georgia, not squirting some lighter fluid onto a pile of sticks in a stone fire pit. It's fine, I'm on the planning committee for next year. We'll fix it.) However, there were some unexpected joys, some of the most favorable in my memory being:
-goading the program coordinator, Daphne Norton into slipping off her brown clogs and tucking in her shirt to play Twister with us, though I did not win
-being goaded into playing Settlers of Catan, which I did win thanks to the help of a plethora of of ore and wheat, and the prowess of my friend Justin Groot
-and finally, learning about the Scholars and Service program, or SAS for short.
SAS is an orchestrated summer experience run through the Emory Scholars program that is meant to instill a sense of community in the participants both with fellow scholars and with the greater Atlanta community. Applicants submit answers to a formal short answer application explaining why they want to be involved in the community and what they hope to gain from the summer. Those chosen (usually anywhere from 10 to 15 people) live together for eight weeks during the summer in a fraternity house (which, happily, has been cleansed for the most part in the interim period between the end of school and the beginning of the program in June). During the working hours of the week, they work an unpaid internship at a non-profit in the greater Atlanta area, which they are compensated for by a stipend from Emory.
Monday nights the pre-designated cooking team makes dinner for the whole house and usually a guest speaker, who will speak on topics related to the program-assigned readings or Emory history of some sort.
Friday mornings and afternoons are set aside for field trips that promote social consciousness about issues like race, sustainability, and (of course) community.
Use of all other hours is generally up to the discretion of the people living in the house, with the understanding that the focus should be around building community amongst themselves. This is accomplished through cooking (food expenses are covered by a budget), game playing, self-designed social events, errand running, etc. Basically learning to live life together.
To ensure that everything runs smoothly, there are two "cruise directors", upperclassmen who have completed the program in past summers. They teach the ropes, encourage dialogue, and are generally helpful for questions like "How do I access our membership at Costco?" or "Who can I call if I locked myself out of my room ((by accident))?"
The overall program coordinator is one of the heads of the scholars program, but she works more with the formal gatherings (field trips, speakers, etc.). So the students in the program end up doing mostly independent (of adults) learning.
At the retreat, I was advised to do SAS as early as possible to form bonds that would last me all the way through college. So that is what I decided to do.