On an average summer afternoon at Dalhousie University, the campus buildings are quiet. The majority of students from the university are away, taking a break from academia and resting up for the new school year that September promises. But in July there is a different energy on campus – 50 bright and ambitious high school students have made Dal their home while they participate in SHAD Valley, an immersive pre-university program for exceptional high school students.
SHAD Valley’s mission is to “provide a transformational experience that unleashes the entrepreneurial and innovative potential of exceptional youth,” and let me tell you, they mean business. Over two three-hour sessions in July I had the opportunity to witness the young Shads at work when I led “Technology, Coding and YOU” seminars that featured career talks and game-building using the web-based TouchDevelop coding language. The atmosphere in the room was one of innovation and excitement as students created games of a variety of themes and pushed the project constraints to new levels. There’s something different about Shads – they possess a sense of maturity and professionalism uncharacteristic of your average 16-year-old, and fit in so seamlessly at Dal, you’d think they were already university students themselves.
I also had the opportunity to mentor a small group of students over dinner and dive further into their ideas and hopes for the future. It is so inspiring to speak with such driven, self-motivated and bright youth, and to help provide them with more opportunities to explore their interests and broaden their knowledge toolboxes. It was a real treat to be a part of SHAD this summer and to witness these young innovators at work.