WOW! Minimester!

You probably have heard of minimester by now. If not, minimester is a special two-week session at the end of a regular nine-week semester that is designed to provide additional academic support and personalized attention to the students at Boys Home. It is also an opportunity for students to try their hands at new and exciting activities which they may not otherwise have had the opportunity to explore.

The faculty and staff love minimester because it is a time to engage with students on an even deeper level. The students love minimester because they get to break out of the norm.  In either case, it was two weeks of action-packed adventure and fun.

The Art of Academics

Minimester was not just about competitive games and activities. Students received the academic support they needed and were encouraged to explore their creative sides. Studies have shown that the arts are a cornerstone to academic learning and achievement. Nicholas, Jude and Zavian discovered the importance of spatial structure and the concept of a notional box as the starting points for drawing and painting. They explored how these concepts help young artists to mimic artistic greats like Picasso and Van Gogh in order to enhance their own creativity and expression.

John Mark devoted time to the performing arts and further honed his abilities on the piano during evening practice sessions. He made great progress in his ability to read music, finger placement, and keeping tempo. The extra time devoted to practice also improved his confidence.

After an evening of working on his technique and rehearsing his selection, John Mark preformed the piece flawlessly and received a high five from his instructor.

Three boys in art class  Boy practicing piano


Finish High. Let it Fly!

A handful of the older students spent time learning the nuances of the game of golf during minimester. Some had participated in previous clinics, while a few more were first-time players. All of them thoroughly enjoyed the game.

Generous donations from individuals and local businesses enabled the students to get in some putting practice on the rainy days and hit the driving range on the beautifully sunny days. A local golf enthusiast donated his time to share his love and excitement for the game with Boys Home students.

The students approached the practice putting greens constructed in the gym with confidence and determination. They quickly learned that, like so many other things in life, golf is not just about competition or muscle. Proper form determines the direction and longevity of the ball. They laughed at themselves and each other as the golf balls veered left then right, disappearing behind furniture and in corners.

The same held true for time on the driving range. Golf balls cut right and veered left with flair. Technique, technique, technique was the theme each day.

The boys were excited to end the two weeks with a tournament held at the Jackson River Sports Complex driving range. The boys earned points for distance and accuracy. While each young man’s initial focus at the driving range was to see how far he could drive the ball, they soon realized that accuracy is the goal, and accuracy is harder to come by than they thought.
In any case, the crowing was mainly focused on distance with shouts of, “Did you see that?” or “Man, that went far!”

Students standing in front of van   Boys at the driving range





Good Things Come to Those Who Bait

The pond at Boys Home is a fairly well-kept secret, but it would be safe to say that any young man who feels drawn to fishing eventually finds his way down the hill.

It’s minimester, and a small group of students signed up for fishing. Some brought rods of their own, and Mr. Calhoun came prepared with rods and other supplies for those who needed them. The boys quietly set to work, helping one another as needed. One student has gotten a head start and with one flick of the rod reels in an impressive catch! He keeps it just long enough to admire his success then returns the fish to its home alongside the edge of the pond. While others are still tying knots, the boy makes another cast and lands a sunfish! It was a good day at the pond.

The afternoon marches forward calmly as students patiently cast, cast again, sometimes taking time to wriggle their lines from the tangle of fishing line and grasses. Some boys plant their feet and cast again and again from the same spot, sure that a fish will bite at any minute. Others maneuver their way around the edge of the pond, looking for the best places to cast.

Eventually, the fishing session comes to an end, and it’s time to head back up to the main campus. There seems to be a sense of accomplishment among the crew. There’s no bragging, no big fish stories, but a sense of completion. After all, it’s a beautiful spring day at Boys Home, and they have fished.


boy holding fish he caught






It’s as Easy as Riding a Bike

Mountain biking is a favorite pastime at Boys Home! During minimester, students had a little time to explore new places and go on longer rides. One group of older students went for a ride on the trails at Douthat State Park. The start of the ride included a long push to the top of the trail, followed by a short but exhilarating ride to the bottom! One of the students shared that some spots were a bit scary, but he overcame his fear and made it safely to the bottom. On another sunny day, another group enjoyed a leisurely ride on the Jackson River Scenic Trail. The ride was complete with a short break to climb up a rock, and then a short nap at the end while waiting for Mr. Copenhaver!

Mountain biking is one of Mr. Copenhaver’s favorite things to do with the students. When he arrived at Boys Home, Mr. Copenhaver (affectionately known as Copie) had the idea to start a bike shop on campus. He got permission to take over a garage/storage area and turned it into a space to store and work on bikes. Shortly after that, the Boys Home bike shop received a donation of unused bikes and parts from a local bike shop that was going out of business. That donation, along with a steady stream of donated bikes and helmets, has made it possible for every student at Boys Home to have a bike of his own.

Copie notes that his favorite thing happens before students even get to the trail. “There’s nothing better than riding a bike you’ve built or fixed yourself,” he says. “And that’s what I want for every student.” When a young man wants a bike of his own to ride around campus, Copie first teaches him the basics of how to put it together or how to fix it. As a student works on his bike, he builds confidence in his own abilities and feels a sense of responsibility for the outcome. That first ride is always accompanied by a sense of pride and accomplishment!

Three boys resting on the back of a car

Two boys riding bikes on a trail







There’s Always Something GROWING On

Houseparent Linda Angle spent several days of minimester in the greenhouse with the boys from Brown cottage. They readied the greenhouse by cleaning up debris and prepping supplies like potting soil, biodegradable cells for planting seeds, and water. Ms. Angle provided markers and materials so students could label their plantings. She also had them read the seed packages to familiarize themselves with the plants they were growing. Watering cans were made from used water bottles with holes punched in the caps, a perfect and inexpensive way for everyone to be able to fill their bottle and water their plants.

Knowing that Boys Home is also home to small critters that would relish munching on some tender new plants, Ms. Angle showed the boys how to attach fencing around the perimeter of the greenhouse as an extra precaution.

The students are excited to see how their plants will grow over the next few weeks. They will continue to nurture their plants in the greenhouse until they are ready to be moved to the garden. Boys Home appreciates houseparents like Ms. Angle who teach the students life skills and get them started on what may turn out to be a hobby or vocation for the boys she leads.

Boys planting seeds  Three boys repairing the side of a greenhouse



Exploration of New Opportunities

A handful of students spent time with an expert in mapping, customer mission analysis, and emerging technology to explore the exciting world of drones. The students quickly realized that flying a drone is the result of devoted study, research, and attention to detail. Drone education begins by understading the types and complexities of equipment used, drone capabilities as well as the art of map reading, mechanical and electrical design, software, and engineering algorithms. The students really dove into the map reading sessions by laying out a topography map to get a better understanding of longitude and latitude.

Because drones are so complex, students were exposed to varied educational concepts that opened doors of excitement and interest. It also provided groundwork for students to understand that the fun of actually flying the drone comes after learning and hard work take place.

boy on floor studying a map






Tennis Anyone?

Ms. Renada Nicely sponsored several tennis clinics during minimester. She is a retired physical education teacher from Clifton Middle School, having taught for more than 34 years.

The boys who participated had no prior experience in playing tennis. However, Ms. Nicely was quick to share that they all did well learning to serve and control the ball. She also noted that each of the participants are all very athletic. Natural athleticism lends itself to learning the game quickly and being successful.

The students who attended the clinics said they enjoyed learning the rules of the game, learning how to serve the ball correctly, and keeping track of the score. It looks like tennis will serve them well in the future.

Boy Playing Tennis









Two boys with horses

boy leading horse







50 Mile Hike

Three boys at Punch Bowl Mountain Sign

Group of young men






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