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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Santa Fe College’s College for Kids program opens registration

The three-week program is back to a fully in-person operation after two years of COVID-19 guidelines

<p>The Alan J. Robertson Administration building at Santa Fe College is seen Friday, June 18, 2021.</p>

The Alan J. Robertson Administration building at Santa Fe College is seen Friday, June 18, 2021.

Alena Liopiros was 7 years old when she trained an army of rainbow creepers – quite the feat in the world of Minecraft, a popular construction-oriented videogame. 

College for Kids, a program hosted by Santa Fe, allows kids to use summer to immerse themselves in subjects typically not taught until college. 

Liopiros studied Minecraft and Legos in 2019. Wendy Liopiros, Alena’s mom, expressed just how wonderful she found the camp and the way it caters toward childrens’ interests.

Alachua County Public School teachers and local experts introduce students to their choice of 20 topics they might not learn during the school year, including robotics and astronomy. Children ages 10-14 can register for the 2022 camp, running July 11 through July 29. Since registration opened May 4, 160 campers have filled 12 of the 20 classes. 

Jennifer Mullis, Santa Fe’s coordinator for community education, said the camp has been running for over 20 years and will continue to allow young students to step foot on a college campus. 

“We want them to leave with a feeling of, ‘You know what? I had a great time. I learned something, and this is a fun place to be,’” she said.

Camp instructors are able to teach in new, creative ways not considered feasible during a typical school year. Zoo trips and planetarium visits aren’t included in the average public school teacher’s lesson plans, but Santa Fe’s program features classes structured around immersive activities.

“I think when parents think about College for Kids at Santa Fe, they’re looking for things they can’t do other places — the technology, some of the space things, planetarium things — things that are more technical,” Mullis said. 

The program closely followed COVID-19 guidelines for the past two summers, using Zoom as a replacement for in-person classes. This summer, it will move to a model close to its original in-person structure.

Jim and Gwen Thompson’s homeschooled kids were campers every year they were eligible. The camp is a good opportunity for parents to get engaged with kids’ education, they said.

The two became instructors after Gwen, a technology educator, got involved with the program over eight years ago after her eldest child started taking classes. 

“It’s just as much an opportunity for public school teachers, especially those who might not get to do the really fun, exciting things,” Gwen said. 

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Her 22-year-old son Spencer, who started as a 10-year-old camper, is now a teaching aid with the program.

“It was really exciting for me as a parent having my kids on campus in chemistry labs,” Gwen said. “They’re in the biology labs, and they’re getting to use the same sort of rooms that they’re going to use when they go to college.” 

Contact Lindsay Schindler at

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