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Evanston Student Impressed by UW Experience

June 28, 2012
People using lab equipment
Hunter Jetkoski-DeFries of Evanston examines a technique called gel electrophoresis to visualize DNA in traditional foods as instructor Carly Jordan looks on during the High School Institute Class "Unraveling DNA." Jetkoski-DeFries is among more than 80 sophomores from 50 Wyoming school districts attending the annual institute that allows students to explore their intellectual, social and creative interests. (UW Photo)

Having lived in Wyoming all of her life, Hunter Jetkoski-DeFries of Evanston wasn’t too keen on staying in Wyoming when it comes time to attend college. Then, earlier this summer, she stepped onto the University of Wyoming campus for the first time to attend the annual High School Institute (HSI).

“I was surprised to see how gorgeous the campus was,” she says. “The scenery is just amazing -- and the buildings and classroom are really nice as well.”

She is among more than 80 sophomores from 50 Wyoming school districts attending the three-week HSI, an educational journey that allows the students to explore their intellectual, social and creative interests. Each day, the students take two classes taught by some of UW’s outstanding faculty members. Classes range from philosophy to hip-hop to robotics and pharmacy.

Jetkoski-DeFries, who joined other Evanston High School students Benjamin Kunz and Amanda Martin at the HSI, selected to take courses in “Hindu Epic” and “Unraveling DNA.”

“’Hindu Epic’ is a lot of fun because it is with my team and we are all so close after just a couple weeks. Dr. (UW History Lecturer Barbara) Logan just knows so much about everything, and it is neat to have the opportunity to learn from her,” she says. “’Unraveling DNA’ is really interesting because we get to do hands-on labs.”

Each year, Wyoming high schools nominate top sophomores, and a group of UW faculty members selects the HSI students, who enjoy a rare opportunity to learn and exchange ideas without concern about grades or credits. The intent is to help students achieve their academic and personal potential, and cultivate leadership capabilities. The program is designed to expand students' horizons, develop their adaptability, creativity and critical thinking abilities; and heighten their sensitivity to future possibilities for themselves and society.

The experience goes beyond academics, though. Athletic activities, talent shows, picnics, community service, dances, outside speakers, attendance at local concerts and plays, visits to museums and enrichment excursions complement the three-week experience.

“By far, I have enjoyed meeting new people and making new friends the most,” Jetkoski-DeFries says emphatically. “I also have enjoyed seeing the campus and taking classes.”

The success of the program should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with it, says Duncan Harris, HSI director since 1998.

“Every year, the students delight us with their enthusiasm and inventiveness, and this is especially true this year,” Harris says. “From classes to their field trips to Saratoga, Centennial and Vedauwoo, the students show the intellectual enrichment that the program was created to foster. It’s a heartening experience for all of us.”

Jetkoski-DeFries agrees wholeheartedly. She seemingly speaks for the entire group when she summarizes her HSI experience:

“This is something all kids should consider trying their hardest to come to! I have learned more about myself, others and the society during this experience than I have learned in my whole life. HSI has been the most significant learning experience of my life!”

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