COLLEGE STATION, TX– Sixty ILTexas students from the Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston areas participated in a free two-week Cybersecurity, Leadership and Language camp held at Texas A&M University from June 13-24. 

Students are nominated by their campuses to participate in the camp based on their proficiency in the Chinese language, academics, or interest in coding. The camp gives them the opportunity to experience college life by staying in the residential dorms at Texas A&M, eating in the dining halls, and being taught by professors at the university. 

The camp is divided into three sections with one group learning cybersecurity the first week and the other learning language and leadership and vice versa. 

Cybersecurity students are given monitors and a keyboard with a built-in computer processor to use for coding which they get to keep after completing the course.

For Kristal Salvador, a rising sophomore at ILTexas Windmill Lakes-Orem High School (WLO), the cybersecurity camp was a new experience. 

“I never thought about cybersecurity or knew about it [prior to the camp],” she said. "It was it was a fun time spending here and getting to know everything that cybersecurity has to give the world."

During the language portion of the camp, students are immersed in Chinese Mandarin teaching through song, dance, art assignments, and a fashion show featuring traditional Chinese attire. Hua Xiao, a Chinese language teacher at ILTexas Katy Westpark High School, taught the language course at the camp along with Deqiang Jiao, a Chinese language teacher at ILTexas WLO. 

ILTexas students at the cybersecurity, leadership, and language camp at Texas A&M University.

“The things that students benefit most is they are learning the theme of university life [in Chinese] in the real context of a university campus,” said Xiao. “I think they really enjoy the fun learning experience which in turn will boost their intrinsic motivation to learn Chinese language and learn about Chinese culture.”

Students in the leadership portion of the camp receive a certificate upon successful completion of the workshop. David Keller, who serves as the director of the Hollingsworth Center for Ethical Leadership at Texas A&M, taught the leadership workshop alongside his co-director, Colonel Kenneth Allison.

“This is an opportunity for us to partner with [ILTexas] and just augment and further the message [of leadership] that [the charter is] trying to do all year long, but in a way that maybe is a little bit unique and memorable for [students],” Keller said. “They get to come to a college campus to interact with some people that aren't necessarily the people that they see every single week [and] it's still challenging them to recognize the fact that in a world where there's a whole bunch of messiness and ugliness that are out there, they can be different.”

For Royce Jackson, a rising senior at ILTexas Arlington-Grand Prairie High School, meeting students from other ILTexas schools was a great way to see the similarities in their backgrounds. 

“I found that meeting other kids from other campuses at this camp has been kind of interesting to just see how far [ILTexas] stretches across the state,” he said. “When we come together, we're not as different as we thought we were before coming in.”

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