Camp Adventure: From the roadways of Germany to the hillsides of Japan
Western students gain unique international experiences while educating youth of all ages
Published: Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Updated: Monday, January 24, 2011 19:01
In 1985, the University of Oregon (UO) founded a non-profit organization called Camp Adventure Child and Youth Services. The home office is now located at University of Northern Iowa, but Camp Adventure still contracts with the Department of Defense to send college students to military bases all around the world to work with youth.
Camp Adventure trains in six states: Oregon, California, Iowa, Florida, Ohio and Washington. The program is offered, here in Oregon, at Western, UO and Oregon State University (OSU).
Camp Adventure offers four different branches for volunteers to be placed in: the Child Development Center (CDC), Day Camp, Teen Camp or the Aquatics program. CDC includes children ages 6 weeks to five years, Day Camp children five years to 12 years, Teen Camp youth 13 years to 18 years and an Aquatics program for children and young adults of all ages.
Students who have participated in Camp Adventure are called veterans. This year, Western has 11 Camp Adventure veterans.
One of them is sophomore Rachel Kottek. Kottek is a Camp Adventure Site Leader for Western, one out of four and is a recruiter for more volunteers. Kottek was deployed to Hohenfels U.S. Army Garrison, Germany, during the summer of 2010. She lived off-base in a hotel room with two other counselors for nearly 11 weeks. Kottek was assigned to CDC, which divides the children into three groups according to age.
Infants are six weeks to 18 months, toddlers are 18 months to three years and pre-school are three years to five years. Kottek worked in the toddler room with two employees stationed on the base. Every day, Kottek supervised arts and crafts time, nap time and recess, spending all of her days with the very young children.
When asked about her experience, Kottek said "[I] gained leadership skills and became much more organized. Working on a base was very different."
Kottek went on to explain that Hohenfels was a very tight community.
"It must have been the size of Monmouth, maybe smaller," she said.
Each loss of life hits the community hard. Kottek feels honored that she was accepted into this community and allowed to work with the children, stating, "Once, an army wife came in, crying, to take her child. Two deployed soldiers had been killed in combat and no one knew whether it was her husband or not. When she came back a few hours later, and came to me, crying, for a hug, I felt very honored."
Junior Bailey Hough had a very similar experience in Ansbach, Germany, at the Katterbach/Bismark U.S. Army Garrison. Hough had few privileges, besides being allowed to work there. Instead of living off-base, she lived in the housing base called Bismark. She lived in an apartment with one roommate and had to walk two miles to Katterbach for work every morning.
"Some of us lived in Bismark," Hough explained. "And some [counselors] lived in housing at Katterbach. There were a lot of children so there were 18 Camp Adventure counselors on-base."
Hough worked from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day with the infants, stating, "I was usually with four children under 12 months and one between 12 and 18 months. I worked alone about 50 [percent] of the time. I was only allowed to have five children on my own, so if I had more I wasn't alone."
Hough said that working so closely with children day in and day out was a make-or-break situation for aspiring teachers.
"Some of my fellow counselors were education majors like me. After teaching on-base, some of them realized they just couldn't handle being around children so much," she shrugged. "I thought it was great. I'm looking forward to being an elementary school teacher."
Hough also emphasized the small community feelings.
"[It] was super exciting when the soldiers came back. Everyone was happy and knew who was who. It was very cute to hear the kids countdown how many ‘sleeps' until their mommy or daddy came back."
Both Kottek and Hough have applied for Camp Adventure for the summer of 2011. Kottek has been tentatively placed in Livorno, Italy, at another Army Garrison, and Hough at a location in Japan that is to be determined.
"Japan is one of the places they need the most counselors at," Hough said. "It was my second choice, but I was nearly guaranteed to get placed there."
Prospective Camp Adventure counselors are asked to rank the 21 offered placements from favorite to least favorite and their top five choices are considered. Some placements require more volunteers than others and are easy to get into. Some are extremely popular and are more difficult to get placed at. About 800 students participate in the Camp Adventure program every year, and it can get a little competitive when it comes to placement choices.
To apply to the program, students must first have a 2.5 GPA, a clean criminal record (this does not include speeding tickets) and a minimum of 40 hours working with kids in a group setting. Baby-sitting does not qualify, but volunteering in a classroom, at an after-school program or teaching swimming lessons at a pool count.
Attending informational sessions is not required, but to be considered, a Leadership Assessment Center (LAC) session must be attended. At LAC, the morning will be spent learning more about the program. After a lunch break, the group interviews begin. This is an all day session.
Kottek explained that the preparation to get into the program is "very time constricting, but worth it."
If students are successful in their interview, there are eight training sessions that must be attended between January and May that each last all day. A passport must be acquired, as must insurance. There are assorted fees for books and supplies, uniforms, liability, and certification in CPR, First Aid, AED and being a lifeguard.
That might seem like a lot, but the tuition is only $325 and covers 18 elective credits. Moreover, Kottek and Hough stated that the experience well outweighs the cost and the time spent applying. The next LAC session is being offered at Oregon State University on Jan. 8, 2011, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the room location TBA.
Any students interested in Camp Adventure can e-mail CampAOregon@gmail.com, or Rachel Kottek, Western Site Leader, can be contacted at email@example.com.