Growing Up at Summer Institute
Growing Up at Summer Institute

This week's blog is a guest post by Marion Brannan who serves on the Summer Institute Planning Committee.

My first Summer Institute was at Bethany College in 1996. I was 19, and couldn’t wait to hear what everyone had been talking about. They weren’t wrong. I grew up in the Young Adult program, first being one of 4 total young adults, watching it grow into the robust program it is now. I was the youngest one at first, and in the blink of an eye, one of the oldest. I may have been THE oldest, but that isn’t something I’ll admit to. I was a frequent RE teacher during SI, with my favorite age being the second and third grade. Kids this age are little enough that they’re still super cute, but you can really see who they’re going to become. At this age they’re creative and can tell jokes and can ride their bikes really fast but still want a hug sometimes. 

Children at SI have always been the most magical part of it to me. Babies with tie-dyed onesies and toddlers dancing in the aisles at worship services, early grade schoolers getting up on two wheels for the first time, middle grade boys together in the cafeteria with ice cream piled high and soda machine concoctions they choke down, convincing each other it’s delicious, middle schoolers growing three feet over the course of a year and telling you about feminism and justice...and the Youth...the glorious youth...traveling in packs with poetry and music and hands being held. Sitting on the Quad on a sunny day watching the kids of all these ages just “be” is one of the many things that has kept me coming back for over 20 years.

When I was 34, I brought my infant twins, ten months, to SI at Kenyon College. They’d been born prematurely and we’d had such a physically and emotionally taxing year-I couldn’t wait to be among my people and see my babies become the SI kids I’d admired all these years. I walked around pushing our double wide stroller. Our community helped me get our meals, rocked the babies so I could eat, helped get them to sleep when they were out of sorts. The first year was hard-babies do that to people-but every year since has gotten easier. My children are 9 now, and have been to 10 SIs. My son says that his favorite part of SI is the services because they’re a little bit funny, and RE because the teachers are really nice. My daughter says the best part of SI is spending time with her friends and singing. 

I’d seen those SI kids walking around all those years, but what I’d missed was the community the grown-ups had. The friendships I’ve made as a parent with other parents are unlike any other I have in the “real world.” We are nerdy in the same ways, we expect the same behavior from our children, and we let the same things slide. What a relief it is to parent alongside others whose parenting styles and values mirror your own! I expect kindness over all else, so does the lady next door. The man across the hall expects his children to be quiet after 9pm so that he can head out with other adults-so do I! 

Life in a college dorm with young kids can be a little challenging; washing bottles or babies or yourself especially. The dorms at Cal U should solve almost all of this! Each of the dorm rooms has a private bathroom, so there’s less of a concern of a slithering baby taking off down the hall. You can take a shower after your kids are asleep or before they’re awake, just like at home. There’s a full kitchen in every dorm and a kitchenette on every floor.

The food at Cal U ranges from chicken fingers and fries to salads and quiche. You will all find something to eat.
The child-care co-op floor at SI allows parents to partake in the nighttime activities that SI has to offer. After the kids are asleep or otherwise down for the night, one parent on the floor signs up to stay in while the others go out. Camaraderie on the co-op floor may also result in a parent game night, or snacks, or staying up too late and chatting.

Please consider coming to SI this summer, and bring your family. Each one of you has a place here. Learn more at

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