Leuphana Summer Academy: A Success Story

Lüneburg. The roughly 300 participants of Leuphana’s eight Summer Academies dedicated three weeks of their vacation to learning for their future, while securing a successful transition into their continued professional and academic education. In the coming weeks they will be receiving their gradation certificates. The qualification program that Leuphana offers secondary school children in their second to last year is unique within Germany and has become a success model for the rest of the country.  The ancillary research shows impressive results: almost 100 percent of the participants complete their school education. Thanks to the special learning therapeutic methods used, the students’ reading skills alone improved by one to two grade levels. The Federal Employment Agency funds this project as part of its in-depth career orientation program.

During their three-week residency, students learn to take responsibility for their actions and to improve their self-image. Projects such as wood working shop, developing and staging a musical, as well as getting to know various different professions are an important part of this process. In addition, special courses run by actors assist the youths to improve their self-presentation while learning therapists help them improve their ability to read and write, so as to prepare them for the professional world and to enhance their personal motivation. They also acquire and strengthen their basic knowledge in fields such as math and German, while expanding their skills on the computer.
Living closely together as a group also helped train their skills in communication, conflict resolution, social etiquette, and team orientation. The youths discovered their own talents and developed the motivation needed to reach their goals through special activities such as psychological coaching, personal training and working with professionals on a musical. The intensive follow-up assistance during the subsequent year helps secure their path toward completing school and making a successful transition to further education or a professional career.

The idea for the summer academy originated with Prof. Dr. Kurt Czerwenka.  The education researcher and psychotherapist teaches at Leuphana University Lüneburg. “In light of the demographic developments we will need to help all youths to get into the job market. Individualized support for secondary school students, strengthening their motivation and creating a positive sense of self-worth are important first steps,” Czerwenka said, explaining the basic concept of the training program.

Alongside local employment agencies, many regional sponsors provide support to the program. The spectrum of sponsors ranges from Rotary and Lions Clubs to corporate foundations to chambers of industry and commerce. The current shortage of skilled labor is a major incentive for them to back the summer academy. Peter Dreissen, the managing director of IHK in Munich and Upper Bavaria, praised the Leuphana initiative: “The IHK summer camp, which we offer to Munich school students in cooperation with Leuphana University, has been an absolute hit ever since its inception in 2009. Thanks to Professor Czerwenka’s effective pedagogical approach we have had a 100 percent success rate in graduation and professional training with more than 170 secondary school students.”

In 2009 the Leuphana Summer Academy celebrated its award as a “Select Site in the Land of Ideas.” In her laudatory address, Birgit Behrens of the Deutsche Bank in Leuphana spoke about the award: “At the Leuphana Summer Academy young people are given the chance to prepare themselves fully for their future.  The trainers, social pedagogues and university students at Leuphana are committed to providing help. This is an exemplary initiative for Germany.”  “Germany – Land of Ideas” is a place branding initiative encompassing both politics and business under the patronage of the German Federal President. It was founded in 2005 by the federal government and the Federation of German Industries (BDI) with the aim of making Germany visible and identifiable as a powerful innovator and creative force both domestically and internationally.
The Summer Academy grew successfully out a few small initial steps. The first camp with 64 secondary school children from the Lüneburg district met 2007 in Hohegeiß in the Harz mountains. Since then more than 1,000 schoolchildren have participated in 32 summer academies throughout Germany (Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate and Bavaria). Multi-year collaborations have been established since then, including, among others, with the Chambers of Commerce and Industry for Munich and Upper Bavaria, the WGZ-Bank Düsseldorf and the Federal Employment Agency, along with regional employment agencies as well.  Additional summer camps are already being planned for the coming year.

Anyone interested in further information can contact the academic director, Professor Dr. Kurt Czerwenka or the project director, Maren Vosshage-Zehnder.