How many times have we all wondered why we needed spend time studying an academic subject in school? After all what does algebra have to do with my life? Or chemistry, physics, or social studies? Is any of this necessary for my future or is it all a time filler created by the school system?
These questions have all been asked by students at some point in their academic careers. Especially students just starting high school who have been told that “Junior Year” is the big year colleges look at in their admissions process. Why bother with 9th and 10th grade work, when there are 2 full years remaining in high school to “fix” any problems with a low GPA?
RFT Founder Peter Underwood created RFT with the premise that students needed answers to these questions as they started high school rather than waiting until 11th or 12th grade when it would be too late to improve low GPAs and college board scores. This is why RFT primarily focuses on students as they start their high school years, and this includes the last 2 years of middle school for 7th and 8th graders.
The idea is to place 7th-10th graders in a college environment where nearly two-thirds of graduating high school seniors end up each year and allow them to attend a variety of STEM oriented classes and labs. These interactive classroom sessions are coupled with hands on activities such as flying a plane with a flight instructor (practical application of algebra one, chemistry, physics, and physiology), completing obstacle and leadership reaction courses (leadership, self esteem), exposure to various careers using aircraft, ship, submarine, and tank simulation, building submersible vehicles (soldering, circuit boards design, rudimentary motor construction), collecting earth and water samples and analyzing their content (environmental engineering, biological sciences), and discovering a variety of careers in both the public and private sectors.
After an intensive week which begins around 6 AM and ends at 11 PM each day, students return home with an understanding of the value of secondary and post secondary education; that there are a variety of options for education and training open to them through the military and the private sector; and they cannot wait until the end of high school to plan for their futures. Additionally, this week serves to create a bond with their chaperon who lives in their community and is available for years to provide guidance in addition to their parent(s).
Parents appreciate that the RFT experience uses local chaperons who are a part of the local school district or serve as mentors in the community based organization which serves as the backbone of each program. While RFT staff create and manage the agenda, it is the effort of a local school or organization that makes this experience last beyond the week through ongoing interaction between students and mentors when they return home.
This experience can be used by a local organization as a reward for participating students who met organizational requirements during the year such as community service, school attendance, academic performance, or meeting internal goals for the organization. Or it serves as an outcome for students who fully participated in the Extralearning Online program during the academic year.
Past RFT participants sum up what they gained from these college experiences as “All I Can Be Is Up To Me”.
Below is an example of what an RFT summer program includes at a college location such as the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). The days are long and there is no what is referred to as “down time” built into the schedule. Students and their adult chaperons are expected to participate in each activity, and the intensity of each day is such that we have limited the program to just one week. The adult chaperons cannot generally keep up after 7 days.
This same schedule and type of activities can be created on any college campus as desired by RFT staff.