The Compass Academy Network on Friday graduated its first class from its new three-week summer enrichment program.

The program, hosted by Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School, was geared toward helping middle school students keep their learning skills sharp and avoid the summer slide. Participants in its first class came from the Joplin and Galena, Kansas, school districts, as well as a few homeschooled students.

Students took classes in four areas: civics, science, English and art. They studied civic virtues such as courage and humility, tested the laws of physics with paper roller coasters, read both classic and contemporary poetry and short stories, and created works of art based on the way lines and shapes are represented in everyday objects.

“We had the pleasure of seeing the students grow and learn and struggle in all the ways they’re supposed to,” said Shauna Tharp, program director. “And one of the things that we hope is that it wouldn’t be a bubble. We hope (the students) will take the skills they’ve learned and apply them when they go back to school.”

Sylei Click, a 14-year-old who will be a freshman at Galena High School, said her favorite activity was building the paper roller coasters.

“Learning about art and the different aspects of it and getting to make new friends also was fun,” she said.

Click said she looks forward to practicing her newfound note-taking skills in high school.

“I’m really excited for it,” she said of her upcoming freshman year. “I know that I’ve got people behind me that can help push me forward.”

Lisa Klaver, principal of Galena Middle School, said she had encouraged some of her students who she knew would qualify for the program to enroll. She pitched it to their families as not a summer remedial option, but as a way for students to expand their skills.

“It’s learning, but in more of a camp setting,” she said. “Middle school kids are old enough to be left alone at home (during the summer), but this provided the opportunity to gain some knowledge and make some connections outside of school.”

Klaver said she dropped by to visit her students during the second week, and they told her they were having a great time.

“I was very impressed with the way they were interacting with peers outside of their school,” she said.

Compass Academy Network is a nonprofit founded by Debra and David Humphreys, of Joplin. Debra Humphreys is its executive director; David Humphreys is president and CEO of TAMKO Building Products Inc.

In speaking to the graduating class on Friday, Debra Humphreys said the inaugural program had been an “intense and really special” time.

“We believe in you and your ability to use the tools you’ve learned here to achieve your goals,” she told the students. “We believe that when you start the new school year, you will have more skills and confidence and be able to reach the goals that you set.”

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Emily Younker is the managing editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.