By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – PAWS University has a new name, but its mission remains the same.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney program is now known as Loper Launch Enrichment Camp, a change that better represents UNK’s role and its long-term commitment to serving Kearney-area families.
“We will continue to offer the same educational, hands-on activities for elementary students each summer. Those key components of the camp will still be there, just under the new name of Loper Launch,” said program director Amy Nebesniak, an associate professor in the UNK Department of Math and Statistics.
Available to students entering grades one through six, Loper Launch is a fun, engaging way for kids to continue learning during the summer while connecting with the UNK campus. Families can choose from a variety of one-week workshops and four-week academies led by educators from UNK and area school districts.
“Each year our teachers develop new, interesting classes to bring to area children. With everything from STEM to art to Spanish, the enrichment options are numerous,” Nebesniak said.
Previously organized by Kearney Public Schools, the curriculum-based summer camp transitioned to UNK in 2019. Nearly 2,000 students have participated in the program over the past four years, including the “Home Edition” offered in 2020 when in-person instruction wasn’t possible.
“It’s been a really positive addition to UNK,” Nebesniak said. “We’re seeing more kids learning during the summer and more kids being exposed to higher education, which is a win-win for everyone involved. Plus, the kids have a great time.”
This year’s Loper Launch Enrichment Camp is scheduled for June 5-30 on the UNK campus. The camp catalog will be available online March 16, with registration opening 8:30 a.m. March 23. The cost for each one-week workshop is $70 per student, or $45 for students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
Two four-week academies are available: a Reading Academy for students entering grades one through three and a Performing Arts Academy offered in collaboration with Crane River Theater Company for grades four through six. Those cost $280 per student, or $180 for students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
All workshops and academies will run from 9 a.m. to noon each day, with an earlier drop-off option available for an added cost. Families who choose this option, known as Countdown Hour, can bring their kids to campus anytime between 7:30 and 8:45 a.m. Students will be able to read, color, play games and explore educational computer programs in a supervised environment inside the College of Education building during this time.
The new schedule ensures Loper Launch remains accessible for working families while providing additional flexibility and free time for the educators involved in the program. By using a morning-only format, each session is 30 minutes longer than previous years, allowing students to dive deeper into the different topics.
“We need to balance how to best serve the community and sustain the program for years to come, and we think this structure allows us to do that,” Nebesniak said.
For more information on Loper Launch Enrichment Camp, visit unk.edu/loperlaunch.