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Camp TURF Reaches Future Students

Camp TURF Reaches Future Students

Camp participants are found racing down a zipline, digging in the dirt, dissecting grasshoppers, identifying trees, grafting plants together and making terrariums. Traveling the state, harvesting potatoes, determining the sugar content of blackberries and filming a segment for “Oklahoma Gardening” - these are just a few of the activities at Camp TURF (Tomorrow’s Undergraduates Realizing the Future). Not your typical summer camp, Camp TURF is a two-week residential academy at OSU, sponsored by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

Shelley Mitchell, OSU Extension associate in 4-H/youth development (horticulture), learned about youth opportunities at Regents’ summer academies while teaching at Stillwater High School. After coming to work at OSU, she developed the concept for Camp TURF. The camp completed its fourth year in June 2013, and is geared toward upcoming Oklahoma high school freshmen and sophomores who will be the first in their families to attend college.

“We introduce campers to career fields in horticulture and landscape architecture, while giving them an opportunity to experience college life at OSU,” Mitchell said. “They live on campus and participate in hands-on activities led by professors. We try to take the ‘unknown’ out of college and make them feel comfortable in the university setting. We hope to provide students with a basic understanding of the relevance of agriculture, and end up with a few new Cowboys, as well. Research has shown students who attend Regents’ academies are more likely to go to college. Several former Camp TURF participants have come to OSU.”

The group takes day trips to Tulsa, Norman, Oklahoma City, Pawnee, Perkins and Woodward, visiting botanic gardens, experiment stations, organic farms, the Oklahoma City Food Cooperative, the Regional Food Bank and vineyards. Evening activities include swimming, volleyball, lifesized Jenga, bowling, live theater, Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show and a painting class.

“The students who come to this camp are from all over the state, but by the time they go home, not only do they have a greater understanding of horticulture and agriculture, they’re like family,” Mitchell said.

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