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By Drew Truitt

Above and "Beyond..." An Afternoon Glimpse of The Vanguard School's Summer Camp Program in Action


Last updated 7/17/2019 at 2:11pm

Drew Truitt

Technology Class flying drone with teacher Diego Fant and students Noah Brogan, David Johnson and Adam Miksud

When I met Roberta "Bobbie" Halfacre, director of The Vanguard School Summer Camp program, she explained it is named "Beyond..." because students, faculty, indeed anyone associated with this school for gifted and lifted young people with individual challenges definitely do not think inside the proverbial box.

This philosophy starts from the top down and everyone works to make life better for those who need it most. Teaching and learning take on a whole new meaning here, and Summer Camp is a continuation of the regular school year, but kicked back a notch because there are fewer students on campus. In fact, the summer program often provides a transition for new students to try The Vanguard on for size.

"We provide every child with a quality education," states Halfacre who with ebullient enthusiasm tells The Vanguard story in its entirety, or at least as much as can be squeezed into a few hours during my time on campus.

"I'm like their school mom," Bobbie goes on. "Everyone gets what they need, and that's truly how we keep kids from being missed. You know we're a small school. We have small classes, and we have to make it personal for the child."

Our first stop was to the ACT testing preparation class with teacher Pam Crump where I met two Seniors, Audrey Pinckney from Tampa, and Ore Kuye from Miami. In this class, also taught throughout the year, students receive one-on-one ACT training, and are allowed to test multiple times to improve their scores, which translates to college placements and better jobs.

Crump identifies with the fact "it's a complicated test which takes a lot of endurance." The proof is in the pudding as taking the test multiple times results in a 1-3 point improvement on each subsequent exam completion on average.

Our next stop at Beyond... Camp is at the Media Center where we encountered Brittany Stephens leading the Positive Mindset class. Through various visual art projects and aroma therapy with essential oils the goal is to reduce anxiety to a state of calmness.

"Everyone likes to be in their comfort zone," Stephens said. "But in order to grow and learn you have to work out of that [zone]."

This was just one of many exercises on how to identify triggers and handle stress, anxiety and anger issues. In the class that day were Karisma Robinson (Nassau, Bahamas), Taylor Fowler (Sarasota), and Halfacre's granddaughter, Aryn Rogers (Winter Haven) who joined the group for a day full of instruction and activities.

Sand art, watercolor painting, rubbing stones are all examples of exercises in making handicrafts that provide a sense of being grounded.

From there we joined Technology teacher Diego Fant and students Adam Miksud (New Hampshire), David Johnson (Sarasota) and Noah Brogan (Lakeland) who took to the sky with a remote controlled drone.

Being close to a helipad and Lake Wales Municipal Airport just to fly a small drone Fant has to actually submit a flight plan, or at least to inform them when he will be using the drones for clearance.

"This summer camp we are doing block coding," Fant points out. "Block coding takes that type of code...that you can stack together like Legos, and it's a lot easier for young kids to understand right out of the gate so we can do more advanced stuff quickly." (The drone wasn't the only thing over my head as science and technology are not my strong suits.)

Our final stop was to all meet at the Gymnasium where everyone ends the day together as a group. Playing some ball, talking and relating the day's events and lessons, or simply to put an exclamation point on the fact that The Vanguard truly cares about its young people more deeply than in a regular school perhaps because they need to, or more likely

Summer Camp Director Bobby Halfacre interview with Drew Truitt

because they want to. Several teachers live on campus as do most of the students.

Perhaps Fant said it best. "I teach them, but they also teach me."


The Vanguard School is more than just a school...we are a family. For over 50 years The Vanguard School has been educating students in grades 6-12 who struggle with learning differences. Vanguard provides a safe, welcoming, individualized educational and residential environment within which our students thrive academically, socially, and personally. Small class sizes, individualized curriculum, college and career advising, academic and residential mentors, as well as social and independent living skills are just some of the many things that students receive at Vanguard.


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