Guest author: Allison Hall

While summer is a time to de-stress from the school year and spend time with friends and family, excessive free time can also have its consequences; among them prolonged internet usage, television watching and boredom. To combat this lull, summer activities are an opportunity to enhance the personal, social, educational and professional facets of a teen’s life.

Summer opportunities are beneficial to maintaining progress in school, college applications as well as resumes. Beyond the practical applications, while most activities in school are planned and required, summer opens the doors to activities which are of interest to a teen. Whether volunteering, working a job or participating in a program, an organized activity allows for choice to explore an area of learning that school may not allow for. This independence and subsequent responsibility allows teens to gain real-world experience and the ability to apply knowledge learned in school to new settings. Further, the experience of searching for an activity, crafting an application, interviewing and meeting new people are all invaluable life skills.

Underlying the summer activities is an even more fundamental advantage: discovering a sense of identity, purpose or direction. As a student, the first question one is asked is: what are you studying? What are your future aspirations? While these questions are likely unanswerable as a teen, knowing what one is interested in (or not interested in) is enormously fulfilling and useful in future endeavors.

An example of such a program at Seattle Children’s Research Institute is called Summer Scholars, which is a part of the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team (SMAHRT). The week-long program is designed for high school students who are interested in pursuing careers in research in various fields. The program has a strong focus on diversity, by placing emphasis on reaching students for whom these opportunities may be difficult to come by, particularly those who live outside the city of Seattle.

During the program, each student is to develop a research question of interest to them which is related to social media and adolescent health. Throughout the week the students then collect data, analyze it, and ultimately produce a poster for which they give a presentation. In addition, Summer Scholars week is jam-packed with a plethora of fascinating undertakings. Among these, tours of Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s bench lab with a question and answer session, panels from STEM workers, a Seattle Children’s Hospital tour, guidance from researchers, mentoring from alumni of the program and much more.

The program has proved rewarding to students who find that the program helps them hone research skills, identify particular areas of interest, or simply opens their eyes to the breadth of careers available to them. More information can be found on SMAHRT’s website: http://smahrtresearch.com/

How does one find a Summer Activity?
1. Research opportunities to shadow or observe individuals who work in career fields of interest
2. Look into summer programs at universities or organizations that cater to a passion or interest
3. Become a summer counselor for youth or apply for other local jobs. Help your teen write a cover letter and resume or help guide them through the application process
4. Volunteer, join an existing service project or plan one of your own