Trinity’s Summer Intelligence Seminar for high school students was featured in a profile by the Catholic News Service; the article was distributed to hundreds of newspapers across the country. The Summer Seminar in Intelligence, titled Culture and Intelligence: the Middle East and the Changing Scope of Global Security, is funded by a grant from the U.S. Intelligence Community, and is a part of the Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence at Trinity.
University’s ‘Spy Camp’ Lets Teens Learn About Intelligence Gathering
By Joshua Garner, Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Some came out of curiosity. Some came because their school counselors told them to. Others had hopes of becoming spies.
For the last three years Trinity Washington University in Washington has hosted a summer seminar in intelligence formerly called “Spy Camp,” now simply titled the Summer Seminar in Intelligence. The program attracts high school students from around the country for a week to learn about intelligence gathering, counterterrorism and national security.
“I think it’s a really hot topic for students at this time,” said Shelli Dronsfield, coordinator of the event. “It’s truly a pre-collegiate course.”
The seminar at the Catholic university includes lectures by experts in terrorism and Middle East culture, as well as government security analysts.
“It’s a good opportunity,” said Najam Hassan,19, of Lakewood, Ohio. “I have an interest in the FBI.”
Like most of his classmates, Hassan said the seminar offered a chance to learn more about topics splashed across headlines every day.
“This to me was a great experience,” said Walid Phares, an expert in global terrorism and Middle East affairs, who spoke at the seminar. “I was positively impressed about what I heard today,” he said, referring to students’ comments.
The students, ranging in age from 15 to 19, were well-versed on topics such as the history of the jihadist ideology and its connections to the Ottoman Empire, and global affairs since Sept. 11, 2001.
“These guys are doing their own research,” Phares said in an interview with Catholic News Service. “These young men and women are going to be a part of the decision-making in five to 10 years.”
In the digital age where most teenagers are more interested in iPods, MySpace.com and the Nintendo video game console Wii than they are with political and global affairs, the seminar’s students mostly saw it as a stepping-stone for where they want to go in life.
“I want to be a spy when I grow up,” said Reagan Thompson, 17, of Falls Church, Va. “You learn different perspectives and it opens your mind.”
The students said they were impressed with learning the details of intelligence gathering, such as surveillance and what is done with the information once it’s collected. Thompson said the seminar gave depth to their understanding of terrorists’ networks and their ideology.
“It’s interesting to hear about what they (terrorists) did and why they did it,” she said. Students were told jihadists are patient by nature, spending years in planning before an attack is made.
The students were enthusiastic when a former FBI information analyst came to talk to them about career opportunities. They were particularly interested with the FBI’s fly teams, highly trained cadres that respond to terrorist attacks anywhere on the map in a few hours.
“I was like ‘Oh my God, I am so joining the FBI,’” said Meriam Fadli,17,of Oak Hill, Va. “She (the speaker) made it seem so interesting.”
While a career in intelligence gathering exited the students, it also provided them with career alternatives.
“It’s not like a dull office job,” said Fadli.
“Yeah, I don’t want the dull office job,” responded Kaitlin Miller, 16, of Herndon, Va.
The students were a productive bunch with little time or interest for tediousness. Most of them said if they had not attended the seminar they would have been busy doing summer internships at hospitals or government offices.
“It’s learning by choice,” Miller said.
Copyright (c) 2007 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops