Are You Smarter Than a Middle Schooler?

The students have been learning a lot – anything from how hard and soft lights affect the definition of a photo to how easy-to-follow chronology and a relatable beginning help make great short stories. After classes today, students were caught off guard with a short but strong thunderstorm. Some hid inside while others danced outdoors. Then, they went together to the dining hall to enjoy al pastor quesadillas, shrimp acapulco, and myriad fruits.

After lunch, ten students swam, played soccer, and participated in a coin scavenger hunt, and nine students walked down to Westwood Village for snacks and fresh air. The coin scavenger hunt involved a total of 50 gold, silver and bronze coins, and only 5 purple coins worth 300 bruin bounty points! Most students in Westwood Village marched directly to Target to purchase cheese puffs, orange peach rings, and other snacks.

After evening activities and dinner, the students became very involved in our first ever Quiz Night. Our jeopardy game had categories including past activities, Oxbridge, our faculty, and culture. Blue Team is leading far ahead in Bruin Battles, yet Gold Team remains resilient! After jeopardy, many students stayed in the Prep Center to play a round of Kahoot with 29 questions about the Marvel series.

Everyday, we are so proud to see students grow accustomed to doing good deeds such as eating healthily, picking up trash, cleaning up after themselves, and sharing food with friends even if they are not awarded Prep Points afterward. We do not have a shadow of a doubt that this good behavior will continue in our final week and a half together. Keep checking back for authentic updates!!


Happiest Place on Earth with Those Who Make Us Happiest

After Monday’s full day of classes, a stroll around the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a fun session of games and activities with an improv coach, our students woke up Tuesday morning, filled with excitement and anticipation for their day at Disneyland. Although they have been enjoying their classes, they were eager to be let out as soon as possible so that they could get ready for their visit to “the happiest place on Earth.”

When we arrived, we ate our lunches at Disney’s picnic tables and rearranged ourselves into two groups. Surprisingly, both groups met up at Pirates of the Caribbean for their first ride. Then, we rushed to get fast passes for the two most popular rides: Indiana Jones and Space Mountain. These passes shrunk a 65-95 minute wait into 15-20 minutes! While waiting for the fast passes to activate, we went on popular rides like Splash Mountain, Magic Tea Cups, and The Matterhorn. In between rides, we ate churros and ice cream, bought merchandise and shared riddles. Some students also tried large turkey legs for the first time and were proud to finish even half of it!  They were so content with going on rides, regardless of the wait time, that almost all of them wanted to enjoy one last ride instead of enjoying the fireworks show.

In the end, we had to head back to the bus by 10pm in order for the students to have enough energy for classes and activities the next day. Satisfied with their “1st Visit!” pins and the innumerable memories in their pockets, they behaved well on the bus ride home.



A Totally Beachin’ Day

Again, the students did a great job waking up early, mostly due to the fact that they were excited to watch the World Cup finals together. Almost all members were supporting France, the champions this year. They began teaching each other about the traditions of having gold stars on their soccer jerseys and passing down the same trophy year to year.

After the game finished, we hopped on a bus that took us to the Getty Villa: a collection of art – originally owned by the American billionaire J. Paul Getty – housed in a series of gorgeous buildings designed in the style of an ancient Roman villa. The whole museum is filled with magnificent artifacts from ancient mediterranean civilizations and details on the creation, purpose, and stories surrounding each piece. Although wandering the halls of a museum filled with old artwork was not exciting to everyone, the whole group was able to admire the undeniably gorgeous gardens, pools, and architecture as we walked around the villa’s outdoor areas in perfect weather.

Our trip to the Getty Villa was followed by a trip to Zuma Beach in Malibu. After our beachy picnic, students had loads of fun diving through huge waves crashing on top of them,  tossing and kicking around some balls, and hanging out on the sand to read and chat. Just as the students started to calm down, we saw a couple of dolphins swimming together just behind the crashing waves, which definitely reenergized the group. Some students, who didn’t see the dolphins at first, were so shocked that they thought everyone else was trying to prank them when we started to shout about seeing the dolphins!

Students took showers and ate ribs and mac n cheese (among other things) for dinner before reconvening in the Prep Center for a lovely assembly in which we discussed our favorite memories, the things we are most excited for, and our least favorite parts about the program so far. Our assembly then turned into a Games Night. We played Kent, Egyptian War, and Uno, until the students were too tired to go on.

As the students started to check in, Michelle and Seena did room inspections to make sure everyone is keeping their rooms clean and organized and to give extra Prep Points to the roommate duo or trio with the neatest room. This week’s winners were Georgia and Assata, who, not only kept all of the surfaces in their room tidy, but also took time to organize their drawers and dressers. The students were quick to fall asleep after yet another long and exciting day. We are so excited to resume classes, go to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and be entertained by our surprise guest speaker tomorrow!


Today Was a Home Run!

Despite not having classes today, students woke up early this morning to enjoy breakfast before our long day downtown. Our first stop was the California Science Center. We started our visit by exploring the Space Shuttle exhibit. The Science Center is home to Space Shuttle Endeavor: one of three remaining vehicles that traveled to space and back during NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. The kids enjoyed learning about the engineering that went into Endeavor’s several missions to take astronauts and technology into space to deploy, build, and service the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station. Other exciting exhibits included a touch tank, a living kelp forest, and an exhibit on different phobias. We had lunch in the rose garden by the museum, and kids were given the option of watching either an IMAX movie about ancient Egypt, or an IMAX 3D movie about space exploration.

We left the museum and drove by USC and the Staples Center. The students poked their heads out the window exclaiming, “Whoa, this is where Steph Curry and Lebron have played!” Another student said to himself, “Hmm, maybe I should post this on my Snapchat story!”

Later, we arrived at the Dodgers Stadium to be greeted by free 60th anniversary bobble heads at the entrance. The students couldn’t wait to experience one of America’s favorite pastimes. As a group, we stood up and busted out several dance moves in an attempt to get featured on the big screen television. Students indulged themselves with famous Dodger Dogs, chili cheese fries, cotton candy, and Dippin’ Dots. In our group, there was an even split between Dodgers and Angels fans; however, in the end, the students were happy with a close game resulting in Angels winning 5-4.

After finally returning to Sproul Landing, our home away from home, Salma shared her surprise package of chocolate strawberries with everyone. Lastly, the students spent their last hour before lights-out going on a night walk, doing laundry, and chatting about today’s astronaut, freeze-dried ice cream, tomorrow’s Getty Villa and Malibu Beach trips, and more.

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The Grove and Karaoke Night

After students’ majors, minors, and lunch, we took a bus to The Grove, home of famous athletic wear shops, The Apple Store, Ladurée, Pressed Juicery, and a farmers’ market. We enjoyed Nike, Dylan’s Candy Bar, and The Sticker Planet most, a family-owned business located at 3rd and Fairfax since 1991. First, they spent time admiring different countries’ soccer and basketball jerseys; they were not surprised to learn that their favorite jersey, Nigeria’s, was sold out after a mere three hours on the market. Then, we enjoyed free samples of raspberry and strawberry-banana gummies at Dylan’s Candy Bar. We were proud to see students share their haul or put their sweets back onto the shelves when we reminded them that dentist appointments are more expensive than Kit Kats and lollipops. Although it hasn’t even been one week, the students seem to have matured quite a bit.

After dinner, students used anything from paper towel rolls to bulk hand sanitizer bottles to act as their microphone for karaoke night. We sang hits from all different genres, decades, and languages. Favorites among the students were “Someone Like You” by Adele, “Let It Go” by Idina Menzel, “Closer” by The Chainsmokers, and “Don’t Stop Believin” by Journey. It was great to see some shy students sing their hearts out on our makeshift stage. Once the singing started to die out, the whole group moved upstairs to the common area on our floor to play Kent and to get ready for bed. They were excited to rest well for an even busier day at the California Science Center and a Dodgers game tomorrow!


LACMA, Laundry, and Lots of Laughter

Today, students’ major professors took them on field trips to either USC’s business and law schools or an older, but still very successful, arcade located at the Santa Monica Pier. The students were happy when they returned with small souvenirs: super bouncy balls, USC brand fidget spinners, and USC hardcover pamphlets with in depth details about the university.

After lunch at around 1:30, students hopped on the bus that took them to the La Brea Tar Pits, and then LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The students observed exhibitions from artists of all backgrounds including Venezuela, United Arab Emirates, Japan, and Saudi Arabia. The students most admired a floating rock titled “Levitated Mass,” a painting of a can of Spam, and an image of Campbell’s tomato soup. Several students even asked to stop by LACMA’s gift shop, sharing that they would like to purchase presents for their parents and siblings back home.

Upon returning to campus, the students ate dinner. Afterwards, the activities leaders took a few students to the laundry room to teach them how to wash their clothes. Later, they broke up into two groups. One group of students went outside to play an exhilarating game of soccer and cops and robbers, while others stayed in the Prep Center to play Uno and Egyptian War. Before the night came to an end, everyone came together to enjoy countless rounds of Kent and to finish up some homework.

Throughout the day, students spent time filling our compliments and suggestions box with nice notes to each other and the Admin Team. Without a doubt, the Admin Team will take their advice into consideration to further tailor the program to their interests.


Slurpees, Soccer, and Cinema

After lunch and classes today, the students were taken into Westwood to celebrate 7-eleven giving out free Slurpees on July, 11th We stopped by a UCLA merchandise store in the village on the way back to campus. When we returned, we split into two groups: some students went to the field to play soccer, while others stayed in the Prep Center to watch the first Ant-Man movie in preparation for our Westwood movie night. After dinner, the whole group went back to Westwood to see their choice of Incredibles 2 or Ant-Man and The Wasp. The students were eager to check-in and go to sleep after an exhausting yet exciting day of academics and activities.

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