“The children must ask questions” – Vulkaneifel

The concrete structure on the “Alter Weg” in Daun is still gray and airy. The junior university on the site of the former bread factory is the largest project the Lepper Foundation has completed to date. Executive Director Doris G. Lepper and Deputy Executive Director Tyrone Winbush visit the site regularly to see how the work is progressing. A few weeks have passed since the last visit. The walls on the 6th floor are currently being formed. The house will have seven floors. “We will be at the top at the end of August,” promises site manager Erich Doll from Zenz Massivbau. “We have already built a few houses, but this is something very special,” says Doris G. Lepper. The educational institution’s concept comes from Junior Uni Wuppertal. “We do almost everything like that,” says Peter Lepper, chairman of the board of the Lepper Foundation.

Lepper got to know Junior Uni Wuppertal through a lecture at an event that he actually didn’t want to listen to. But the concept excited him. At Junior Uni Daun, young people between the ages of four and 20 should attend courses that are primarily dedicated to the so-called MINT subjects (mathematics, computer science, natural sciences, technology) without grade pressure. Especially for the younger ones, knowledge should be conveyed in a playful way. “Kids should ask questions,” says Doris G. Lepper. Therefore, for example, all cables that are routed under the ceiling in the building remain visible. The children must develop a technical understanding.

Junior Uni’s program is adapted to children’s interests

There is already a preview of future courses in the current summer holiday. At the end of August, there is a course on pirates for seven to ten-year-olds. At the beginning of September, 11 to 14-year-olds can learn something about “the moon and the celestial giants” in cooperation with the astronomical association Vulkan Eifel am hoch List eV. When the junior college starts, the program that will be offered at that time has not yet been determined. They should be adapted to the interests of the participants. STEM subjects are often what schools lack, says Doris G. Lepper. Peter Lepper also has an eye on the future of the industry, to which TechniSat also belongs. TechniSat was founded by Peter Lepper and now belongs to the Lepper Foundation. In his opinion, the interest and training of younger employees also serves to secure the future. “We need more IT people who also learn the production steps,” he says: “For example, we need to do more in the development of electronic components.”

Therefore, there are also considerations about possibly offering a double degree at the junior university later. “That would then have to be sought politically,” says Lepper. Space has already been calculated for this. “Coming from the steel industry, we think in tonnes. It is better to think generously now than not to have space later,” says Peter Lepper: “We want the young people to stay here. We don’t want Daun to become a grandfather’s town.’ Doris G. Lepper adds that this is the reason why there is so much support from the administration. It is also important for both of them to lead children from so-called “disadvantaged backgrounds” to education and show that learning can be fun. This support is also important to Doris G. Lepper for personal reasons. At a young age she taught herself as a teacher. Her studies were made possible by a scholarship.

“After the summer holidays, we would like to start recruiting teachers in a targeted manner,” she reveals. “We’ve had inquiries from people who want to teach classes,” Winbush adds. “It is important that young teachers and students come,” Doris G. Lepper is convinced. A 12-family house will even be built, which will also have accommodation for lecturers. “All teachers, regardless of whether they are professors or students, get the same money”, explains Peter Lepper. The junior university should be designed comprehensively. This applies, among other things, to the journey. “For example, there is the problem of how the children get here. We are in the process of fixing that,’ says Doris G. Lepper. On the ground floor of the junior university, there will also be places to stay, e.g. a café for the “bringers”. There are also planned offers. For expectant grandparents, it could be courses in how to use smartphones, for example. There is also no fee to be paid for participation in the courses at Junior Uni. “The foundation is responsible for everything,” says Peter Lepper: “Fees would be discriminatory.”

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