Hometown: Rock Hill, SC
Majors: Religion, Psychology
Minor: Poverty and Human Capability Studies
Why did you apply for this particular internship? I worked at a summer camp last summer and loved it. I knew that I wanted to incorporate service into my summer experience this year. The Shepherd Alliance gave me the opportunity to match my interests with a service environment, and it has been more than fulfilling.
How did your work apply to your studies at W&L? With my academic interests and experience, I was able to apply what I have learned in my religion, psychology, and poverty classes in my interactions with the campers and staff this summer. I was prepared for much of what I would experience in rural poverty by my Poverty 101 and 102 classes, as well as the Effects of Poverty on the Family class. I was better prepared to interact with children of different ages from what I learned in Developmental Psychology. I even used some of what I learned in Jesus in Fact, Fiction, and Film class in preparing for devotions throughout the summer. This summer has given me more guidance in my post-graduate and professional plans.
What was the most unexpected aspect of your Shepherd Alliance experience? I did not expect to grow as close to the staff I worked with or to feel such a strong connection to Camp Shawnee and CAP after a few short months. I also expected more of a difference between the middle class children I worked with summer and the low-income campers I worked with this summer. Children are children even if they come from extremely different backgrounds.
Post-Graduation Plans: After this summer's experience, I am looking to go to Seminary and/or go into camp ministry.
Favorite W&L Memory: Taking a study break to see Cadavers outside the sorority house
Favorite Class: Approaches to the Study of Religion with Professor Brown
Favorite W&L Event: Big Sis Week
Favorite Lexington Landmark: The view of the meadow outside Lenfest when it snows
Why did you choose to go to W&L? When I was college searching, I had a list of criteria that my college had to meet. W&L met every one of those, and everything just worked out for me to be here. I know that I made the right choice.
Why did you choose your major? I knew I wanted to spend my life helping people. My passion is in psychology and the academic side of religion. When I got to W&L, I fell in love with the poverty program after participating in the Volunteer Venture program and taking Poverty 101.
What professor has inspired you? Professor Brown and Dr. Lynch never cease to amaze me in their passion for the students in and out of the classroom as well as their academic areas.
Advice for prospective or first-year students? Be fearless when you get to college. Don't be afraid to try something new or sign up for as many activities as possible. You can always narrow down your interests later.
I hear my alarm go off at 6:45 am Tuesday morning and wake to have a few minutes to myself before I wake my teen girl campers. It was a hot night inside the dorm where the campers sleep because the power has now been out for 48 hours due to summer storms over the weekend. Camp Shawnee is located on top of a mountain twenty minutes away from the nearest major highway. Even with the connections that the Christian Appalachian Project (CAP) has with the power company, it is doubtful that our camp is high on the priority list that includes many families without power in the surrounding areas. We decided to bring fifty teen girls to camp on Monday morning with the hopes that the power company would soon bring a crew to repair the power line that has fallen across the deck that we use as a gathering space during the week. The deck currently has only yellow caution tape and counselors' scolding words to keep everyone from the downed power line.
It is now 7:30 am, and my three co-counselors have joined me to help get our girls ready for a full day of camp. We make sure that the girls are ready to swim in the pool after breakfast. This may be the last opportunity for the campers to enjoy the pool this week. If the power does not return soon, the pool will become too murky and unsafe for swimming. The cool pool water is one of our only escapes from the above-100 degree weather we have had all week. We have adapted already by carrying around water guns and misters in addition to our water jugs to try to keep heat-related injuries to a minimum.
As we go into the dining hall for breakfast, we feel the overwhelming heat immediately as the doors open. The camp is running on a donated generator that powers only certain refrigerators and freezers. Over the weekend, we rearranged the refrigerators so that the dairy food items for camp were out of the walk-in refrigerator that requires more electricity than the generator offers. The cooks have improvised the menu so that they only use the gas stove; however, this makes the kitchen so hot that it is nearly unbearable without the air conditioning. Sitting through a meal inside with the campers causes me to sweat more than I would on an hour-long canoe trip.
The moods among the staff and counselors are a bit edgy in this heat, but our campers are doing surprisingly well. Many of the girls at camp this week live way back in the hollers of eastern Kentucky where they can go days without power after a storm takes out the power lines. They are not strangers to getting ready for bed in the dark because some do not have light bulbs in their rooms at home. They do not complain about a cold shower by flashlight because some families can only shower once or twice a week to save money on the water bill.
Thankfully, we are able to find enough shade from the heat and take a hike on a shady trail. On our way back up the hill where most of camp is located, we see men in hard hats working on the hill where the downed power line lays. Within two hours, the camp erupts into joyous screams as the lights and air conditioning come back on throughout camp. Everyone's spirits improve after that moment.
The girls then go back to the dorm to enjoy a spa party. Each girl receives nail polish and lip gloss that has been donated to CAP. This time is meant for the girls to feel pampered, but not made up, in ways that they may not experience at home. Our group decides that it is much more fun to do the counselors' hair in multiple braids and write all over them in lip gloss. Either way, everyone enjoys the spa party time.
While the girls were treating themselves, the male staff was preparing a special dinner for the girls. After the spa party, we all go to the now much cooler dining hall where the male counselors escort each girl to her seat at a table. They serve each girl courses of salad, spaghetti, and donated Girl Scout cookies for dessert. The meal even includes a beautiful rendition of "Wonderwall" from the male staff. For many of these girls, their interactions with males, whether it is fathers, boyfriends, or brothers, have not included the amount of respect, love, and appreciation that we show in one meal.
After our dinner, we have ENDOW (Empowering the Natural Dignity of Women). This is a time for the female counselors share personal experiences on important lessons the campers may not hear anywhere else. Being a Christian camp, we cover topics like relationships with God and people, modesty, substance use, and self-respect. This tends to be the most emotional time of the day as the girls have time to open up with each other about the various struggles they are all experiencing in their lives.
Following ENDOW, we head down to the baseball field for an intense game of capture the flag. After we are all sweaty and worn out, we trek back up the hill to take showers before bed. The girls are grateful for lights, air conditioning and hot showers. Only one counselor stays in the dorm with the girls each night so I am finally done with my day at around 10:00 pm. I leave the dorm to get a snack and talk about my day with some of the other counselors. Then I take a quick shower and get some sleep so I am ready to do it all again the next day. Through all of the difficulties, we are still able to survive camp without power and provide an enjoyable experience for a group of teen girls who may not have another opportunity to experience a loving environment during the summer.