I had no idea how much working at a summer camp – in an unheard of small town – would hugely influence my life and the course of my career. How? It all began in 2009 when Camp Joy hired me to be a summer Teen Unit counselor. My first campers were from a foster care setting; I had no previous knowledge about the foster care system. I learned a lot. Being around these campers 24/7 – and observing their outlooks on life – truly moved me. Some of these 14-year-olds had seen more hardship during their short time on Earth than most of us will experience in our lifetimes. I began to ponder, “With so many cards stacked against them, how do we expect them to succeed in the real world?” And I wondered what I could do about it.
I left Camp Joy and went back to Bowling Green to complete my undergrad degree. Upon graduation in 2011, I began my professional career serving in Undergraduate Admissions at Ohio University. Here I witnessed first hand how students with limited resources have fewer opportunities to succeed. This, of course, included students who grew up in the foster care system. Because of my Joy experience I recognized that need.
Perhaps I could do something for students like the ones who had made such a difference in my life at Camp Joy. An opportunity presented itself. While working full time in Admissions, I pursued and received my Master of Higher Education degree in 2014. My final seminar paper offered ideas of what college and universities could do to better serve students with a foster care background. I am humbly proud to say one of those suggestions has been implemented! OHIO’s undergraduate admissions application now recognizes foster youth’s struggles and offers resources to aid those students.
Moving forward, in 2014, I became the Assistant Director of Annual Giving at OU and was challenged to implement a student philanthropy program. A core group of students, motivated by the philosophy of “Bobcats helping Bobcats,” jumped on board. They decided to raise money for a scholarship for a current student experiencing significant financial need. When I told them about my work with foster youth, they asked if they could start a scholarship specifically for students from a foster care background. Could they ever! Currently, this scholarship is OHIO’s only scholarship that specifically targets this population. Over $7,660 has been raised to date!
I have attempted to make clear how working with foster youth at Camp Joy impacted my life. I notice how the sharing of that message has touched the lives of others. We are working together to help raise awareness of need (as aforementioned: application changes, scholarships etc.) Who knows how the lives of these folks helping have been affected – and what they will pass on?
It’s akin to the tale of the pebble being thrown into the water and creating ripples – no one can predict how far the ripples will radiate and where the impact will spread from here. How many others will hear and be moved to act? I can’t wait to see what happens as we continue helping foster care students – and others – to grow and succeed in the years to come – one person, one pebble, one ripple at a time. Thank you, Camp Joy, for providing me with a pebble…