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Christina Turchetto (left), Lara Fernandez (center) and Megan Faulkner (right) are members of the Summer Academy to Inspire Learning (SAIL) staff. University of Oregon students can volunteer for SAIL programs, which provide high school students with information about pursuing a higher education. (Marissa Willke/Emerald)

The Summer Academy to Inspire Learning is now accepting applications for students and volunteers to participate in its annual summer program. Applications are open for 8th-12th graders to participate in the camps and for University of Oregon students to volunteer as mentors.

SAIL is a pre-college program designed to serve middle and high school students that are from lower income backgrounds and/or are first generation college students. SAIL encourages students to pursue higher education through early exposure and exploration opportunities, including its free week-long summer camps at the UO.

“Our magic time is in the summer where we host free programs on the UO campus where these middle and high school students get to spend an entire week with UO faculty and college students learning all about the million and one things they can do here in higher education,” Lara Fernandez, executive director of SAIL, said.

During these camps, students learn about a variety of subjects through activities and lessons taught by UO faculty. Students will be able to choose from 17 academic topics this year ranging from product design and chemistry to performing arts and geography.

“By the end of the week, these students come away with this high energy and excitement about how cool college is and are just wowed by the amount of different fields of study that they can go into,” Fernandez said.

Along with younger students, SAIL is also looking for current UO students to volunteer as counselors and resident assistants for its summer programs. Volunteers will act as mentors for the students and guide them through the week, according to SAIL’s website.

“[The volunteers] become the people that our high school students really bond with, and they really help create a community for our students. They create a sense of comfort,” Fernandez said.

In terms of experience, Fernandez said that the volunteers will come away from the camps with valuable learning experiences.

“Every one of our college students that come through feels like they have learned so much about themselves, about leadership development, about teaching,” Fernandez said. “I think our college students grow and learn as leaders as much as our high school students do. They come away and they love it and they want to do it every year whenever they can.”

SAIL was created in 2005 by two economics professors, Bruce Blonigen and Bill Harbaugh, with the intention to increase diversity on campus by decreasing barriers to students wanting to pursue higher education.

“They will both tell you, they have said many times, that at the end of their careers SAIL will be the thing they're the most proud of,” Fernandez said. “Because we've helped so many lives.”

Megan Faulkner, the program manager for SAIL, works with local schools to educate students on the opportunities SAIL offers. Through her experiences, Faulkner has been able to connect with many students.

“It's really fun to see that moment where students kind of start to make those connections and they're like, ‘I can see myself in this role. I can see that this is something I might be capable of doing,’ which is really rewarding,” Faulkner said.

SAIL has served over 3,000 students and 96% of its participants attend college, according to the program, and the four-year high school graduation rate for students that participate in SAIL is 99.3%, compared to an average of 74.8%.

Christina Turchetto, the office coordinator for SAIL, came to work for the program after her daughter participated in the SAIL summer programs for two years in a row.

“It was life changing for her. I was just thrilled and amazed that such a program existed,” Turchetto said.