$1M gift to W&M funds camp for gifted youth

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Camp Launch provides kids with instruction in STEM-focused classes such as Lego Robotics, where kids learn how to assemble their own robots and then program them to complete various tasks. (Marisa Spyker/W&M)
Camp Launch provides kids with instruction in STEM-focused classes such as Lego Robotics, where kids learn how to assemble their own robots and then program them to complete various tasks. (Marisa Spyker/W&M)

A William & Mary summer camp for gifted middle school students will continue its fifth consecutive year thanks to a $1 million gift from Nancy and Mike Petters.

According to a release from the college, the gift from the Petters Family Foundation will support the 2017 season of Camp Launch, a two-week residential summer program, operated by the Center for Gifted Education at William & Mary’s School of Education.

The free camp was created in July 2012 to provide an opportunity for gifted students, who reside within a 75-mile radius of Williamsburg, to “take a step out of their everyday environments to experience learning in a college setting with other gifted scholars,” the release stated.

“Both Nancy and I have had an opportunity to be successful and a lot of our success can be attributed to the fact that we had access to high-quality education,” donor Mike Petters, president and CEO of Huntington Ingalls Industries in Newport News, said in the release. “I frankly believe if you’ve been successful, it’s your responsibility to help other people be successful.”

According to the release, Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, is the largest industrial employer in Virginia and the largest shipbuilding company in the United States. The family’s gift comes at a critical time for the camp, which received startup funding and its first three years of support from a private foundation.

“Their financial support has been essential to keep the camp alive,” said Dr. Tracy L. Cross, executive director of the Center for Gifted Education at William & Mary.

Local school districts eligible for participation in the 2017 season are: Charles City, Dinwiddie, Franklin, Hopewell, King and Queen, Williamsburg/James City County, Newport News, Norfolk, Petersburg, Portsmouth, Richmond, Surry, and Sussex.