Central and South American Students Prevented from Attending Science Camp
For over 50 years, the National Youth Science Camp has hosted the brightest science students from the US and some foreign countries. The Camp is held at Camp Pocahontas in Thornwood, WV. In addition to the usual camp outdoors programs, these campers attend lectures and directed studies.
The selection process is very stringent with the students having to submit transcripts, essays, letters of recommendation and be interviewed. The rewards of attending this camp are also great, with many alumni becoming leaders in science and mathematics. 45% of camp alumni have gone on to obtain doctoral degrees and many are leaders of industry and academics in their scientific field.
Details about the camp, its programs and students will be detailed in an upcoming story, however while putting that story together, we discovered that this year a number of the foreign students who went through the extensive selection process and were invited to attend were unable to obtain a visa to enter the US. Camp Director, John Giroir explains.
“We’ve worked for many years with the US State Department to do an exchange program enabling students from multiple countries to participate in the National Youth Science Camp” Giroir says. “This year is the first time we’ve ever experienced what we call the ‘visa issuing issue’.”
Giroir has been told that the problem was a technical one with the US State Department.
“The system that allows them to process visas has some sort of difficulty” Giroir says. “Whether it’s mechanical failure or software failure that I think they are still working to address. But the timing of it impacted our ability to bring students into the country to participate.”
The Camp Director describes how this impacted the camp.
“We were slated to have 17 international students from 8 foreign countries in Central and South America” Giroir says. “When fly-in day came when all the students fly-in to Charleston, West Virginia, only two were able to join us. We scrambled to work with the embassies and the US State Department further to bring these students here and were luckily able to bring 5 more students within the first week of camp.”
Some of the International Students were not as lucky.
“Sadly though that means that ten students were unable to participate in the Camp this summer” Giroir says. “So seven out of seventeen were able to be with us.”
There is a little good news though.
“In following up with the State Department it appears that for most of those students, we will be able to bring them back to camp next year if they are still within the appropriate age range” Giroir says. “So we potentially would have all those ten to participate next year. Which is great news for them and for us. It’s just a very unfortunate situation and definitely heart breaking for them.”
Giroir talks about the countries involved.
“We were able to have students from Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Costa Rica and Argentina” Giroir says. “Some of the countries that weren’t able to send students were Chile, Ecuador and a few others.”
Again, this is the first of several stories about the National Youth Science Camp. We will learn a little more about the camp and talk with a couple of the students.