Camp Kesem founder Carol Huang enjoys arts and crafts with a camper.

MIT Camp Kesem founder Caroline Huang enjoys arts and crafts with a camper.

Caroline Huang ’10, a brain and cognitive sciences major, is heading to Oxford next year as a Rhodes Scholar, based not only on her academic achievements but also on her work establishing an MIT branch of a summer camp for kids affected by cancer and cofounding a quirky club called Imperfect@MIT.

Camp Kesem provides a free, week-long summer camp for kids whose parents have or have had cancer. Kesem is the Hebrew word for magic; our goal at Camp Kesem is to provide these children with a magical week that allows them to escape the harsh realities of cancer,” Huang said in a GoCollege blog post. Huang, whose paternal grandparents died of cancer in close succession, wanted to provide an experience that involved fun, leadership skills, and emotional support.

The idea for imperfect@MIT came from a study that found undergraduates felt pressure to be effortlessly smart, accomplished, attractive, athletic, and popular—a phenomenon called the myth of effortless perfection. An imperfect@MIT brochure, written by students, describes how to recover from setbacks.

“This myth manifests a little differently at MIT, in that some students brag about taking the most classes and having the most work, and consider sleep deprivation a badge of honor. This lifestyle puts students at risk of burnout, especially when they are accustomed to standing out the same way they did in high school: succeeding on intelligence alone, putting minimal work into classes, concentrating on a smorgasbord of activities, and somehow achieving enviable results. I have definitely had days when I felt that the work I was doing was not getting me anywhere, but the imperfect@MIT message reminds me that it is perfectly natural to struggle sometimes—and that sometimes struggles sweeten the subsequent rewards.”

Huang is interested in careers involving health policy or psychology and plans to focus her doctoral work at Oxford will examine the ethical and policy implications of the genetic testing. Learn more about the Rhodes application process, Camp Kesem, and Imperfect@ MIT inthe GoCollege post.