Jewel: Youth Science Camp

September 16, 2010

June 21, 2009 — The Charleston Sunday Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Out in California, the San Jose Business Journal printed profiles of “40 under 40″ — bright young business stars of Silicon Valley.

One was about Marissa Mayer, youthful vice president of the world’s foremost online search engine. It said she “heads the search division of Google Inc., a global technology leader that made more than $21 billion in revenue last year.” It said she was one of Google’s first female engineers.

How did she rise to science prominence? She glowingly praised West Virginia’s National Youth Science Camp, where she was a high school delegate from Wisconsin in 1993. She said she was tantalized by science “puzzles and solutions” at the rugged mountain camp — especially those of offbeat instructor Zoon Nguyen. She explained:

“The counselors said — and I remember this because it sounded like a parable — ‘It’s not what Zoon knows, it’s how he thinks.'”

The California newspaper continued: “That way of thinking led Mayer into symbolic sciences in college, a field that combined logic and philosophy in the field of computer science.” Now she commands Google’s top division — and retains fondness for West Virginia and its four-decade-old National Youth Science Camp.

The NYSC is a jewel bringing honor to the Mountain State. Each summer, two outstanding high school science stars from each state are flown here for an intense session of learning and outdoor adventure. The bright youths stay overnight with volunteer Charleston families, then are bused to a remote Pocahontas County 4-H camp. It’s inspiring to see the keen, eager teens blossom among their peers. (This year, the governing foundation bought 110 acres in Canaan Valley which will become the camp’s first permanent, year-round home.)

Over the decades, many success stories like Mayer’s have arisen from former NYSC campers. West Virginia can take pride from this noble support of America’s scientific future.

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Reprinted from the The Charleston Sunday Gazette-Mail.

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