Saturday Academy helps kids explore unique interests


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Saturday Academy is a Portland-area program that helps kids explore their unique interests and even find their future careers. 

The program was founded in the 1980s by Jackie Jackson and Gail Whitney after they noticed children in their classrooms who displayed individual interests in topics that weren’t being fully addressed. 

Jackson and Whitney decided they wanted to give these students the chance to learn from professionals in the fields they were interested in, especially for kids interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). 

The program has given more than 185,000 students the chance to explore their unique curiosities to date. 

And this summer, Saturday Academy will teach some 300 classes throughout the Portland area. 

There are classes on everything from environmental microbiology and robotics, to programming and improv acting — but each class is taught with a special twist to engage students. 

Dr. Jeri Janowsky, May 29, 2019. (KOIN)

Kids interested in robotic engineering will work with LEGO kits; a programming class will have students creating 3D games; young actors who take the improv class will be challenged to think like heroes to make the world a better place; potential microbiologists will make technicolor art out of bacteria. 

Dr. Jeri Janowsky was a professor of neuroscience at OHSU before becoming a Saturday Academy mentor to high school students. She’s now the executive director of Saturday Academy. 

“We’re looking for children to explore something they’re interested in because they’re interested. No tests, no homework,” Janowsky said. 

Michelle Neiss is such a big fan of Saturday Academy that she’s enrolled all 3 of her kids in the program for the past 11 years. 

“What I really want over the summer is to encourage a love of learning,” said Neiss. “Just the pure joy of learning.” 

Madeleine Neiss, a Saturday Academy student, May 29, 2019. (KOIN)

Her 8th-grade daughter, Madeleine, said she’s taken many classes that have given her glimpses into various careers. 

So far, Madeleine has taken the LEGO robotics class, as well as classes on speech, debate, law, art, animal anatomy and dissection. 

“It’s a lot more fun that going to other camps who aren’t as hands-on,” Madeleine said. 

Many of the upcoming Saturday Academy classes are still open for enrollment and financial aid is available. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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