For many years I worked in a university career center. Part of my job was to match incoming first-year students with available on- and off-campus part-time jobs. I read several hundred résumés from high school students every summer. So much for the living being easy in the summer—these kids were working, volunteering, traveling, and studying during much of the summer. The experiences they shared on their résumés helped them get into college. They demonstrated initiative, commitment, a strong work ethic, and the desire to learn about things that they may not be encountering in school.
And those are some of the qualities we appreciate in our Free Spirit Teen Advisory Council (TAC) members. Living in all parts of the country, the 49 kids in grades 6–12 (and some in their first years of college) help Free Spirit by previewing books, sharing ideas, and responding to surveys. We emailed the group with this message:
“We would love to hear from you, the TAC members. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to tell us about what you have been up to this summer. You may send us a couple of sentences or a couple of paragraphs—it is up to you!”
Rachel, a high school senior this fall:
I traveled to Seville, Spain, for a pre-AP Spanish immersion program with the organization Centro Mundo Lengua on a full scholarship. I stayed with a host family and took classes at a local school on the weekdays. I visited numerous interesting places, such as the picturesque Plaza de España and the Real Alcázar. In addition, I also took day trips to the beaches of Tavira, Portugal (where I experienced my first sunburn), and Cádiz, Spain, during my stay. By the end of the trip, I’d gained so much more confidence in speaking Spanish than before, especially when shopping or ordering food at a restaurant. I also made new friendships with other students, teachers, and the locals there. It was definitely an experience that I will not forget.
Mara, a high school senior this fall:
My favorite part of this summer was my week as a counselor at a camp for middle schoolers. The campers swam, kayaked, and played kickball. There was even an obstacle course set up, and it had a zip-line! I enjoyed hanging out with the other counselors and the campers. We had some awesome kickball tournaments! I can’t wait for next year!
Andrew, recent graduate:
My summer started off with high school graduation. It’s funny because I already started my freshman year of college as well. I ended my summer semester of college on June 24. I went to Florida for the first time with my girlfriend and her family! We also drove down to Georgia to pick up her little brother. I’ve gone hiking, played Xbox, and helped my girlfriend’s volleyball team hold a camp for elementary and middle school girls. I’ve had a pretty active summer, and it’s been a blast!
Margarita, a high school senior this fall:
I spent the first six weeks of this summer taking physics and the second semester world history to catch up in school (I just finished junior year, my first year of high school since transitioning from homeschooling). I’m visiting family in Wisconsin and watching a lot of Doctor Who and Castle (and cat videos, who am I kidding). I am going camping with friends for the last two weeks of summer before my 18th birthday (and senior year of high school).
Diana, a high school senior this fall:
I started the summer with lots of plans, but family things came up and I couldn’t follow through on them all. There is a bright side to this: I finally got to go to my all-time favorite bookstore! I got four books, mostly by Sherrilyn Kenyon, who is my all-time favorite author, and one book from Christine Feehan, my second favorite author. I almost hyperventilated I was so happy! Also, I emailed Christine Feehan for advice on writing a book since I had gotten stuck writing once again, and she actually emailed me back with feedback! This has been a really good summer so far.
Kirsten, entering ninth grade this fall:
I take part in a youth circus every summer. My favorite classes are Commedia dell’Arte (a form of Italian comedy), diabolo (Chinese yoyo), and Stage Combat. I’ve also been performing tricks with shaker cups. This year I’m helping out with hip hop and tumbling classes. The circus is great for kids to find new ways to let out their creativity.
Nicole, entering eleventh grade this fall:
This summer I’m in China. I’m here to spend time with my family and learn Chinese at the same time—I’m taking classes at a university here. Being in a different country is amazing: the people, the culture, the surroundings, the food are all curiously unique and so unlike that of the United States, so much so that every day has something new and unexpected. Moreover, students from all over the world—Norway, Russia, Italy, France, South Korea, to name just a few—come here to learn and experience this part of the world, so during my time here I am not only learning about China, but also about Norway, Russia, Italy, France, and South Korea. Nothing beats a break from school more than a break from school in another country.
Kassidy, entering eighth grade this fall:
Over the summer I have been doing a play at the Sheldon Theatre. The play is Cinderella. I’ve also been going to a new bookstore in my town. They have great books at really low prices. I’ve also been going up to our cabin a lot. It’s by a lake so we go fishing and water-skiing quite a bit.
Kody, entering eleventh grade this fall:
It’s a bright and sunny morning here at Table Rock Lake. As I sit here writing, I watch the boats drive by and listen to the waves hit the dock. Ah, how I wish this was how I had spent my entire summer vacation. Unfortunately, back home in Kansas City, my life wasn’t so peaceful. After school ended I left home for a three-week program at the University of Missouri. I stayed in a dorm with 300 other students and had the opportunity to choose certain classes and activities that sparked my interests. For those three weeks, I felt like a college student, but then it was back to the real world. This year I decided to get a summer job with a property management company in their pool maintenance department. That might sound really fancy, but really it just means that I have been working at neighborhood pools as a so-called “pool boy.” Training and conditioning for my upcoming cross country season has also kept me busy—to meet the total summer mileage required by my coach, I have to run almost every day.
In July I got a break when I accompanied my aunt, uncle, and their daughter on a trip to Seattle. The weather was warm and sunny every day with a great breeze coming in from Puget Sound. There was so much to do and so many places to visit. If I had to choose my favorite part of the trip, it would either be traveling to the top of the famous Seattle Space Needle, taking a ferry tour on the bay, or seeing the underground portions of Seattle that are now abandoned. Right now I am enjoying my family’s annual vacation to Table Rock Lake. This is my last hoorah of the summer before it’s back to school. This week I can relax and just have fun! It’s a great way to wrap up the summer and mentally prepare for the school year ahead.
Thanks to all the TAC members who shared their summer stories with use!
We are looking for new TAC members. If you know a teen who would be interested, please send them to our Teen Turf pages and ask them to consider applying. Email us with any questions.
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