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Ridgewater summer camp gives kids a taste of college

Alexander Duran, 12, of Willmar, left, takes direction Tuesday from Dustin Zieske, an instructor at Ridgewater College, on how to decal a car. Duran is participating in a local program that offers students in the fifth through eighth grades insight into college. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

t's like going to college for a week, said Cole Melin as he prepared to paint flames on a small sheet of metal at the Ridgewater College Summer Camp. Cole and five other boys followed directions Tuesday from Ridgewater College instructor Dustin Zieske as he showed them how to sand the shiny finish they'd applied to their sheets the day before. The Auto Body Custom Graphics course is one of many options at the four-day camp for students entering grades 5-8.

The camp at Willmar's campus will run through Thursday. A similar camp was conducted last week at Ridgewater's Hutchinson campus.

The camp is an annual event at each Ridgewater campus. It helps young people become familiar with the college and what it offers, and it gives them a chance to learn new skills and explore possible careers.

"We talk to them about college" in the classes, said Tari Niemeyer, the camp's director.

In addition to the auto body class, the camp offers four-day cla-sses in robots, small engines, jewelry making, baking, making an iMovie, desktop publishing, drumming, designing T-shirts and da-ncing. A new class this year allows students to work with horses.

Each student participates in three different classes during the four-day camp.

Cole, 13½ and entering the eighth grade, said the auto body class fits well with his interests.

"I'm interested in it," he said. "I'd like to either do this or be a mechanic." He's also taking the engines class.

After two years at Ridgewater camps, he said, he was sorry he would be too old to come back next year. "It's something to do during the summer," he said, and he likes being at the college.

Ben Lozano, 11, about to enter the fifth grade, took the auto body class "because I thought it would be fun," he said. "It is fun, too."

The boys wrapped fine sandpaper around blocks and then dipped them in water. They used the sandpaper to dull the shiny finish of sheet metal they'd painted red, silver or black in Monday's class.

"The paint needs to stick," one boy said as he checked to make sure he'd sanded across the entire surface.

Zieske, an instructor in the second-year auto body class at the college, warned them to check for an orange peel effect and to sand that away.

He also warned them about playing with the water. "No water fights," he said, and he reminded them about his opening day talk about horseplay.

In the paint booth, the boys practiced on paper with stencils and airbrushes. He told them to be careful of their clothes. "I don't want your moms to hang me, remember," he said.

When they were done, Zieske and two of his student helpers worked with the boys to clean their metal sheets and apply the vinyl flame stencils, the last step before beginning to paint.

On Thursday afternoon, the campers will display their projects and give presentations for parents and families beginning at 3:15 p.m. in the college theater.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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