Being mentors, making friends

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 5, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / July 5, 2000

One unique part of the environmentally-based Great River Camp 2000, currently under way in the St. James Parish, is the reliance on studentworkers. Hired on for summer positions with the camp, 40 high schoolstudents from both sides of the river joined the camp staff to help instruct the children about the importance of environmental awareness in the parish.

Importantly, the student workers are not just assistants of the teachers, they have been integral to the planning as well as the execution of the camp.

Out of 100 applicants 40 were chosen by mid December 1999. Way beforethe camp itself was solidified into the program that’s being taught at Romeville and Vacherie elementary schools and Lutcher and St. James highschools, the students began their training.

On Jan. 14 and 15 the student workers set off for teamwork training at theSalmen Scout Reservation, deep in the swamps of Mississippi.

“The first day they were all a little apprehensive,” said Elvis Cavalier, director of student programs. By the next day they all fit together andstarted to see themselves as a team.

“I thought it would be a weekend of relaxing and playing cars, but we were dropped off in the middle of nowhere and did survivalist stuff,” said Eryn Shaw, a St. James High School student. “We learned about teamwork and got to know each other. It was a lot likeROTC. The obstacles you couldn’t do by yourself,” said Jawanza Hathorn,another St. James High student.The obstacles were tests, like climbing walls, navigating web-like barriers and faith drops, where you fall backward blindly into someone else’s arms. Eachobstacle is designed to require the help of others to complete the task, something one can’t do alone.

“We found the best way to do things and learned to trust everyone working together,” said Shaw.

After the camp the students gathered with the 22 teachers who staff the camp. On Jan. 22 and Feb. 18 and 19 the group of teachers and studentworkers discussed the planning of the camp and developed the curriculum.

“We helped decide what would be interesting for the kids and made up games and activities for them,” said Hathorn. The teachers were very open to theircomments, and now part of the daily course work is a result of their comments and advice, she added.

Shaw enjoys her place in the camp. “The little kids all come up and give me ahug. We kind of fill in as role models,” said Shaw. Cavalier’s idea was that as well as helping plan the curriculum, the student workers would serve as a buffer between the kids and the teachers. The kidscan relate to the student workers a little more than with the teachers so the workers serve as a mentor or counselor.

“Sometimes the teachers can’t relate the way we might be able to,” said Hathorn.

Both Hathorn and Shaw enjoy working with the kids. “I’ve got a little sister,so I’m used to the kids. It’s like there are more little sisters running around,”said Hawthorn.

The students are getting paid for their work, just like a summer job, but the real payment comes in experience and on their resume. State and federalfunding agencies, as well as universities, look well on such programs, said Cavalier.

The responsibility and teamwork learned through the training and the camp itself carries weight, not only in the academic world but also in the working world as well. Cavalier expects the camp to continue on for more summersdown the road. With veteran student workers and more high school studentsapplying every year he will be easily prepared to handle the camps to come.

The camps are so successful already, Superintendent Edward Cancienne hopes they can be stretched out to three weeks instead of two next year.

Other student workers serving as counselors and mentors to the camp kids are Givongi Michelle Bazile, Crystal Broussard, Lydia Marie Anastasia Ester, Patricia Hoyal, Katy Roques, Ashley Huguet, Heather Taylor, Damon Pittman, Mercshondria Honor, Lacey Taylor, Nicki McClung, Allison Lousteau, Katie Dunn, Sheena Jeffery, Valencia Thomas, Tyson Collins, Brittany Cochran, Dawanda Williams, Bilan Costley, Raynell Jones, April Johnson, Bethany Bourgeois, Latricia Blain, Michelle Griffin, Trista M. Sieber, Brittney DanielleJoseph, Dorian Dennison, Chelae Knatt, June Janel Williams, LaQuesha Scott, Ka’Trina Polite, Ashley McClung, Rayshelle Lemar and LaQuana Rashad Banks.

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