Putting the Pieces Together: An interview between Joel Sieplinga and Dr. Amanda Case

The following article is an abbreviated version of the conversation which can be heard in its entirety here:


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In the Summer of 2019, Camp partnered with Purdue University doctoral students for additional mental health and wellbeing guidance and care for our summer staff. We have had four successful summers of collaboration. As we focus even more on mental wellbeing through our new Strategic Plan and Vision, Joel Sieplinga and Dr. Amanda Case got together at Brokerage in West Lafayette to catch up. *This article was edited from the original transcript for clarity.

Joel: So I think just starting out, maybe tell us a little bit about your history, background, areas of expertise, all of that.

Dr. Case: I’m currently an associate professor at Purdue in the counseling psychology program. So I’m a faculty member, but I’m also a licensed psychologist. And when I used to do clinical work, I specialized in youth and adolescent mental health treatment and also assessment. So the little kids and sort of angsty teenagers were my favorite kids to work with.

As a faculty member, I spend most of my time training future psychologists, but then also doing research. And I’m particularly interested in youth wellbeing, broadly speaking, and thinking about what I call informal educational spaces. So that’s things like afterschool programs and summer camps, and how those spaces can support youth wellbeing.

Joel: So there’s a wide range of areas to specialize in, what got you interested in that one especially?

Dr. Case: So I think part of it was a little bit of frustration, honestly, that there’s so much attention on formal educational systems and that’s great and well-deserved, but it’s also a little bit of a consequence of the fact that in this country in particular, almost all conversations about youth wellbeing, they talk about families, but everything else is about schools.

And so there’s a real sort of overburdening of school systems to support youth wellbeing in a way that’s not manageable, right? We can’t have any single entity be responsible for the academic, social, emotional health, physical development of kids. It’s just not feasible. And I think what results in that is a formal education system that doesn’t have the flexibility to be able to be responsive to youth needs.

And so that frustration led me to really think about what are the other points of contact, right? There’s a ton of people doing work about schools. There’s a lot of people doing amazing, beautiful work about families. There’s beautiful work done about informal educational spaces, but not quite as much of that sort of domain of the youth development ecosystem.

Joel: Right. It reminds me of when Starbucks was started, their idea was we’re going to become the third place, right? There’s home and work and Starbucks, where people connect and socialize and things like that. And you know, (these out of school spaces) are kind of the third place for kids, right?

It reminds me that we discovered in 2020 how much we relied on the school system to be everything for everyone, right? It’s child care, it’s education, it’s nutrition, it’s health and wellbeing of people.
I think in schools there are certain kids who are very comfortable, and it’s a natural place for them. And then there’s another segment of kids whose defenses are already up coming into school.

And school does not feel like a safe, happy, or welcoming space for them, even in the best of circumstances.

Dr. Case: Right. There are, for a lot of kids, times when formal education settings are just not a place where they feel affirmed and welcomed and seen. And what’s beautiful about these informal learning spaces is that, because they sometimes grow from community needs, they can be more culturally affirming to students. And because they’re not so rigid or they don’t have to be so rigid, there are ways that youth can sort of recognize their potential that maybe isn’t what is reinforced in formal schools.

Joel: So you have a bit of camp history.

Dr. Case: My mom was a music education teacher, before she was a kindergarten teacher, so a music background. And my family was quite musical. So I went to a bunch of music camps when I was growing up, and those were spaces where it did what I think, frankly, the outdoors does for a lot of people, which is it takes you out of your comfort zone and out of your routine and puts you in a place where you get to experiment in different ways and you get to realize things about yourself that you hadn’t previously realized.

And so my camp experiences were really about being quite anxious, about being in these new experiences and spaces and figuring out that I could be there, I could be happy there, I could be successful there, all those things.

Joel:Which camps, do you remember?

Dr. Case: So I grew up in Michigan, so I went to Blue Lake.

Joel: I was wondering about that because I was born, and for the first couple years lived, at Camp Pendalouan, which is on Big Blue Lake, like 10 minutes down the road from Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. So we’re probably not not too far from each other at certain points.

Dr. Case: Yeah, I had, like, this beautiful experience at Blue Lake. I went to Interlochen for a year as well. But Blue Lake had this international band that you could try out for, and I played the saxophone.

And so the summer between my ninth grade year and my 10th grade year, I went to Europe playing the saxophone with this band. I mean, it was cool, you know? I didn’t grow up in a family that did a lot of international travel. So it was actually my first time going to Europe and it was this huge opportunity and it was all through summer camp.

Joel: Good. So then fast forwarding a little bit. I think it was, I want to say 2018, one of our staff basically kind of went through a big list of different professors at Purdue.

Because we’d started to say, I think we need some help. We can’t just do this and I’ll talk about what this is, but we can’t just do this on our own. We need some help here. And you are one of the first people we called.

Dr. Case: Well, I do a lot of partnership work because the whole idea of academics – sitting in an ivory tower – and just thinking about things and not actually talking to the humans who are doing the work, this makes no sense to me. So I love doing partnerships and I have a long history of doing partnerships.

And so when it was like, here’s a group that was so clear in those initial conversations that you all were like, “We’ve tried to figure this out on our own. We know that we need to figure out a way to provide more support for our counselors.” I don’t know, just the attitude that you were all going into it with was like, these are people who I want to work with, right?

Joel: I think one of the reasons we were interested in talking with people about it is, I wouldn’t look at a kid with a broken leg and say, “You know what, let me Google that. We could probably figure that out on our own.”

I think as nonprofits and as camp people we’re really more apt to say, let me see if I can figure that out, and not bring in the experts.

We had tried some things with varying success, but we were trying to do it as laypeople, as people who have no background. We’re like, why are we doing that when we have experts here who have devoted their life to this study? And they could be really helpful to us.

Dr. Case: That was a brave move for you all to say, okay, here’s a need. We’ve tried it. We need help. And it’s a move that I don’t think a lot of organizations make.

What was it that allowed you to do that?

Joel: Yeah, I think it was a combination of things. I think it was 2018, this is pre-pandemic. We had increasingly seen more and more cases or instances where counselors had come to us and just said, I’m hurting right now or I’m struggling right now.

We had tried a number of different things with staff who were majoring in psychology, majoring in social work, and all of that. So maybe you go back to: they just need a pizza party. It’s not just they need a pizza party. They need something that we can’t provide. And I think it was just us coming together as staff and kind of looking around the room and saying, this is not going away any time soon.

And fast forward a couple of years, it’s certainly not going anywhere. The world is changing. If we don’t keep up, we’re not going to be able to support our counselors how they need to be supported and then in turn, support our campers how they need to be supported.

And I think I had said like, look, we’ve got Purdue University pretty close to us right here. Maybe there’s somebody there who could provide some insight.

Dr. Case: So, we had a conversation in 2018 and said, we don’t know what this is going to look like. Let’s give it a try for 2019. How do we make this both helpful and beneficial to camp, but also how can we make this something that’s going to be beneficial to those students?

Joel: So maybe talk a little bit about what that original framework looked like and how we got there.

Dr. Case: There’s lots of work about counselor burnout. But, what does it look like to try and prevent burnout? What does it look like to support counselors? This is not something that’s been studied. And so we were just co-creating from the ground up. And I remember we spent a lot of time talking about what the services could look like.

I only work with doctoral students, so they’re training to be psychologists and they need practice. They actually are required to accrue a certain number of hours, and this seemed like this perfect opportunity for them to get experience doing what I would call therapy adjacent work. Because we don’t do therapy.

It’s not intended to be that, but it allows them to then have these sort of in-the-moment conversations to support people. And that just made so much sense. Because it’s beneficial for you all because you’re getting trained mental health practitioners, right?

And my students are getting this quite unique opportunity to actually do this therapy adjacent kind of work, which if it was up to me, is what more therapeutic work would look like, right? We’re bringing the services where the people are.

Sam (who was quietly recording this nearby): You’re working with college aged students all the time. How have you seen mental health and wellbeing change in the last number of years?

Dr. Case: One great thing is, quite frankly amongst this generation there’s a lot more attention to mental health, which is fantastic, right? And I say that with a caveat, which is that attention to mental health concerns not coupled with strategies for what to do about it or spaces for self reflection can actually kind of make things worse.

There’s actually been some really lovely research coming out about this exact issue that if we’re just exposing people to mental health challenges and we’re not actually giving them any tangible things to do to support themselves, that can make symptoms worse; feelings of isolation and hopelessness worse. So it is a good thing that there is more attention to mental health and people are more willing to talk about what they’re going through.

Joel: We don’t have enough practitioners who are helping. We don’t have enough tools in our tool belt.

Dr. Case: Right. We’re seeing lower frustration tolerance. So that is what you do when things don’t necessarily go your way when you face challenges related to perseverance, resistance. So we’re seeing lower levels of that where it almost feels as though people are giving up when they face challenges. And then related to that, definitely increased isolation and lower hopefulness.

So I totally agree with what you’re saying. It’s amazing that we’re paying more attention to this and how do we make sure that youth have the skills and the support to be able to simultaneously know that they are facing challenges, and if they are, figure out how to cope with it.

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Rooted in Relationships: The Fall 2023 Outdoor Education Team

Meet the Fall 2023 Outdoor Education Staff

Here at Tecumseh, we firmly believe that the best learning happens – for both adults and children – when rooted in relationships with others. This fall our staff are focusing on the importance of keeping relationship building at the center of our programming and work spaces as we strive to build communities where everyone can learn, grow, and feel valued during their time here at camp and beyond.

Learn more about our Outdoor Education program.

Scroll to meet the team.

Lauren “Lobo” Buchanan

Origin story:
I was born just a few miles away near the banks of the Wabash in West Lafayette and while I have wandered far and wide in years past I am overjoyed to be back at home at camp.

Favorite camp activity:
My favorite camp activity is going on hikes through our Oak Forest trails.

Who was an impactful adult that has inspired you?
My teachers! They inspired my love of history, exploration, and built my self-confidence that my voice as an individual was valued.

Keith “Kilimanjaro” Kalish

Kaleb “Kudu” Buchanan

Origin story:
I grew up in Springfield, IL and traveled the country learning more about the different ecosystems in the US and developed a passion for sharing what I have learned.

Favorite camp activity:
My favorite camp activity is campfire programs because you get to be your authentic self and be silly and goofy!

Who was an impactful adult that has inspired you?
An adult that has inspired me is my old youth pastor, Jay Bush. Because of him, I have dedicated my life to serving youth.

Sydney “Serengeti” Maney


Origin story:
Serengeti rose from the plains of Africa. She was interested in seeing more Indiana sunsets though and then made her way to Camp Tecumseh.

Favorite camp activity:
My favorite camp activity is singing silly songs at campfire!

Who was an impactful adult that has inspired you?
My mom! As an educator she has inspired my love for learning.

Isaac “Iguana” Demoss


Origin story:
Iguana was born in the peaceful forests of Camp Tecumseh and grew up hiking, swimming, and frolicking all over the Camp T valley. He often leaves Camp T to find new adventures but always makes his way back home to the greatest place on Earth!

Favorite camp activity:
My favorite camp activity is discovering new critters in Ghost Creek.

Who was an impactful adult that has inspired you?
The adult who impacted me the most was my mom who inspired me to work at camp and help give others the experiences I had growing up there.

Reagan “Rattlesnake” Hanson


Origin story:
Thriving in forested areas, Rattlesnake found herself slithering across the country to Brookston, Indiana where she found camp’s very own Pine Forest and decided to stay.

Favorite camp activity:
My favorite camp activities are singing in chapel (especially River Chapel!) and playing running charades in Main Field.

Who was an impactful adult that has inspired you?
An impactful adult that has inspired me is one of my college professors, Bill Stewart. Through taking classes with him, he taught me the importance of the development of third spaces in lower income areas. I admire his passion for creating a positive impact on towns and communities by developing recreation spaces.

Jon “Jupiter” Hiscox


Origin story:
Jupiter heard that the price of gas was getting high, so he decided Earth could use a gas giant!

Favorite camp activity:
My favorite camp activities are sleeping in hammocks in the pine forest and eating breakfast burritos.

Who was an impactful adult that has inspired you?
My summer camp counselors when I was a camper.

Graham “Glacier” Johnson


Origin story:
I froze during the first ice age, changing the landscape of the earth forever!

Favorite camp activity:
My favorite camp activity is the blobs at the lake and Skywalkers.

Who was an impactful adult that has inspired you?
The most impactful adults I’ve had in my life were my teachers.

Taylor “Thunder” Moore


Origin story:
I first formed in a small cumulonimbus cloud over the hills of Middle Tennessee, but now you can hear me rolling through the troposphere over Camp Tecumseh.

Favorite camp activity:
I love lake time, but it always gets canceled when I go because of lightning in the area…

Who was an impactful adult that has inspired you?
My local meteorologist inspired me by encouraging me on live TV! She is always looking out for me and always knows when I need to rumble.

Rachel “Rock” Naylor


Origin story:
A long time ago when camp still had mountains, an earthquake quaked and a small shiny rock broke off and there I was!

Favorite camp activity:
My favorite camp activity is the Black Hole.

Who was an impactful adult that has inspired you?
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has inspired me with this quote: “It’s nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.”

Josh “Jackrabbit” Schrock


Origin story:
Hailing from central Indiana, I hopped and trekked north to find greener gardens and delicious lettuce. After a couple weeks I came upon Camp Tecumseh and have stuck around since!

Favorite camp activity:
My favorite camp activity is horseback riding on my time off.

Who was an impactful adult that has inspired you?
My top three would have to be Peter Rabbit, the Easter bunny, and the Energizer bunny.

Sheila “Spring” Wilimitis


Origin story:
I appear every year at Camp Tecumseh to chase away the chill of winter and bring warmth and rebirth to plants, animals, and humans. I love to help new light and life spring up after a cold, dark season.

Favorite camp activity:
Hiking the Pine Forest, Ghost Creek, and Gish Trails. Sitting on the deck of Historic River Lodge overlooking the Tippecanoe River. Facilitating learning and discovery with people of all ages.

Who was an impactful adult that has inspired you?
Many of my teachers inspired me to teach with humility, creativity, enthusiasm and constantly improving technique. My Mom showed me how to really listen to people with openness, curiosity, empathy, and love.

The Back Porch Podcast

A Day in the Life of Meg Piechocki

Listen along as Camp Tecumseh Marketing Director, Sam Hirt, follows the Overnight Camp Director, Meg Piechocki, through a Friday at Camp.

From the Desk of Joel Sieplinga

Recently a friend and Camp Tecumseh Alumni tagged me in a report she saw that found 1 in 7 men and 1 in 10 women in the US don’t have a single close friend. “This is why Camp T is so critical!” she exclaimed. At first, I was surprised by this statistic. How could that be true? How is it possible that so many people don’t have a close friend? This finding, coupled with the Surgeon General’s recent statement that loneliness is a new public health epidemic, should be an eye opener for all of us. My friend Jill is right – this is why Camp T is so critical!

At the end of staff training this June I once again told all of our counselors that their job was to “help kids make friends and model God’s love.” At the end of Closing Campfire each week, and as part of the final devotion, we talk about the importance of friendships: “My friends are important to me and I am important to them, therefore I will care for my friendships and help them to grow.”

One of the questions we ask campers and parents at the end of a week of camp is whether they made a new friend at camp. Almost every single one – over 98% so far this summer – say “yes” they made a new friend during their week, with many writing “so many” or “my entire cabin!”

I know the crisis of loneliness and the physical, mental, and spiritual toll that loneliness takes is a complex one. I also know that Camp Tecumseh can be part of the antidote. We are on a mission of great importance!

A Day in the Life of Meg Piechocki

by Sam Hirt

Want to listen to this article? Consume it as a podcast episode!

 

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Working at Camp can be so rewarding and fulfilling. It’s a job where you see dozens and dozens of campers and college aged staff transform into flourishing people who are more equipped for the world around them.

Sometimes, though, working at Camp can also be weird. It’s random and has unexpected challenges and tasks.

Most of my coworkers could vouch for this, and could provide their own top five list of random or odd challenges they’ve navigated. And I think you’d find that they are invigorated by this kind of work, by being on their toes, with a ready-for-anything attitude.

One of those coworkers is Meg Piechocki, our Overnight Camp Director.

Meg started working at Camp over a decade ago as a camp counselor. She stuck around and has worked as Aquatics Director, a member of the Groups & Conferences team, Assistant Overnight Camp Director, and for the last two years, the Overnight Camp Director.

I wanted to see the Overnight Camp program from a different perspective, and what better way to achieve that than from the person who leads it. So I spent a whole day with her – or as much as I could spend with her as two busy people on a busy day in the middle of Summer.

Here was our day.

Meg’s days start early. And on this Friday, it started with a number of meetings, so I finally caught up with her mid-morning in the Historic River Village Lodge.

9:40 AM

We cut through a line of campers refilling their water bottles, and ascended the stairs to the Summer Camp lair. Jordan Seeger, Meg, and Dayna Wiltgen all have offices up there.

I started with an easy question. I asked her, what’s the best part of your job?

“Seeing the joy of kids in the natural environment and learning new things, right outside my window. And seeing young adults as staff engaging with them and providing that experience. Camp comes to life when there are this many kids and staff here.”

What time does a typical day start for you?

“That depends on the day, but I aim for around 7 or 7:15 to be able to get a little bit of breather time before we rock and roll with hoppers and breakfast. So my first stop is the dining halls to see how meals are going, see how kids are doing, see if there are any updates from the night before.”

“From there, we go to chapel, and after chapel, the kids go to Newdls, so that gives me time to connect with village directors again while the staff are out and about.”

“Yesterday, I jumped in and did a couple of soccer skills with the soccer Newdl.”

She added, “Friday is meeting day. Welcome to meeting day.”

It’s also Closing Campfire day, the culmination of the entire week.

“It’s an all-hands-on-deck day.”

Speaking of all hands on deck, I asked about preparation. Our full time team spends much of the year planning for Summer Camp, and the Summer Camp team spends their whole year doing so. I asked, facetiously, if Meg began planning for this Summer at the beginning of June.

She laughed. “August 13, 2022 is when I started prepping for 2023, which is essentially the day after camp was over.”

How early did you start looking for staff for 2023?

“Honestly, we start talking about it in mid Summer. Now is when we start planting the seed, and we open applications in September.”

Village Directors from both Lake Village and River Village began to trickle in at a variety of times for a morning meeting with Meg and Dayna. Their mornings were busy too. I didn’t want to derail their meeting, so I asked one more brief question before I left them to it.

What does a Village Director do?

Meg deferred to the Village Directors in the room.

Sydney Maney, one of our River Village Directors, answered. “We help support the counselors, whether it’s with camper things, or counselor to counselor, or partnerships, that support can look a lot of different ways. It can be conversations. It can be encouraging words or actions.”

Meg added in, “You also implement programming and make sure that programming is meeting our quality and cultural standards that we want to achieve for our kids and for our staff. You promote counselor growth through challenging conversations. And that’s all just been this morning,” she joked.

I left Meg and Dayna and the Village Directors at their meeting, and caught up with some campers outside of River Lodge to see if they knew anything about what the Overnight Camp Director does all day.

“I don’t know, nothing.”

Another chimed in, “Yeah, nothing.”

And a third added, “Emails. That’s what my dad does all day.”

Campers are fun.

12:10 PM

Once Meg and I met up again, In true camp fashion, we got sidetracked by a UPS delivery of 20 boxes. The driver was happy to have us there to help unload. After our brief stints as volunteer box movers, we headed out on a walk around Scheumann Drive (or main loop) in River Village.

Meg had just gotten out of a meeting with Jordan, our Day Camp Director, and as we walked toward the pool I asked her about how Overnight and Day Camp work together.

“We work together really closely all year to look at each other’s goals and outcomes, bouncing ideas off each other. We communicate all year long, and have touch points several times each (Summer Camp) week to see how things are going and what ways we can be supporting each other’s programs, and supporting our staff since the Day Camp staff do live in the cabins as well.”

The bell rang out across main field. Hoppers entered the new Barbara F. Kampen Dining Hall to set their cabins’ tables. Newdls, or clinics, were done for the morning, and campers were meeting back up with their cabins in front of the dining hall to wait for lunch. Some were on the new sport court playing basketball, others played carpet ball on the porch, but all looked hungry. This is the kind of scene that’s been playing out, one way or another, for 99 years. A true camp moment of anticipation.

 

As we approached the new dining hall, counselors noticed and came briskly with questions for Meg. I let them have their time, content with another positive interruption to our interview.

After Meg answered some questions from those counselors, we entered the dining hall and checked in with the kitchen staff. Meg complimented them for their impromptu change during a recent evening when weather forced a change from what would have been a cookout night.

We wove through the miles and miles of tables and chairs (not really, but it really is a big building), and found the Campers In Leadership Training counselors in the Fellowship Room. I asked them what they think Meg does all day.

“I think Meg keeps this place running. She makes sure that everyone that needs something, has what they need.” Zayner Silva, a returning staff from Brazil gave this very poignant response.

Jon Hiscox, his co counselor, added, “She checks the weather.”

Both are true.

We kept moving through the new Trading Post, and out onto the new grass in front of the Kampen Dining Hall where Meg checked in with a few more summer staff. We wrapped up our afternoon walk, and planned to meet at a full time staff meeting a little later that day.

3:20 PM

We got together just before the staff meeting was going to start, so I took advantage of the time and asked another question.

What are some good challenges with this job?

“Personally, I love puzzles and logistics. So a good challenge is when there’s a scheduling struggle or a problem, I love to look and brainstorm all the different outcomes.”

“When you have over 500 kids at camp that are going all different directions, sometimes we come into some scheduling conflicts that we have to find solutions for, and Dayna and I get to bounce ideas off each other to be able to elevate our program.”

Over the next few minutes, a number of staff members on the full time team came in for a weekly meeting that Meg and Dayna lead. But not before a small patch of weather encroached. Meg put on her weather person cap, opened her laptop, and advised the aquatics staff to keep going as planned, but to be sure to have their lightning detectors on and ready.

After that Friday afternoon meeting, Camp was calm for a brief time – a reprieve before theme dinner and closing campfire.

6:45 PM

Meg and I went out early to Closing Campfire to set up and to chat a little more before the wonderful chaos of Friday night.

She practiced the speech she would give during the Torchbearer Ceremony in the car.

“This is a great segue,” I told her. “What is it about Closing Campfire that is so great? What are we trying to achieve with Closing Campfire each Friday at Camp?”

“It is the culmination point of the entire week,” she said. “And so the kids get to show what they learned at Camp. They get to get on stage and we get to praise them and cheer them on. And the energy of seeing all of Camp together in one place again at the end of the week is a really cool community and family feel.”

Since Closing Campfire is a culmination of the whole experience, I wanted to know, what are the key components of a camp experience?

As we approached the Closing Campfire stage, she said, “A well rounded experience is what we’re going for, so that can range from high adventure activities to moments of connection and community, but at the base of it all comes faith development through building friendships and communities in each and every cabin.”

“The activities add some fun, but it’s the counselors that drive that entire experience for our kids.”

Closing Campfire commenced and we ended our interview time together. I got on stage and played a little guitar and took an all-camp photo. Meg announced the units for unit cheers, and later led the Torchbearer Ceremony.

She charges the Torchbearers, the oldest kids at camp, to be lights and to lead the way for others. She is a good example of that herself.

Eventually, the campers and staff left for devotions in their cabins, the fire went out on stage, and the stars shined bright over Camp Tecumseh.

Learn More about Tecumseh Giving

Tecumseh Shaped My Entire Everything

The Torchbearer Chronicles

By Sam Hirt

“This is hug time. This is when he comes to get his hug.” Meghan Alexis is nose to nose with her dog, who periodically during our interview does what many small dogs do: gets up close
and personal. And that’s okay, because Meghan Alexis is a close and personal friend to Camp Tecumseh.

Meghan went from a camper in the early to mid 1980s, to a summer staff member, to one of the very first mentors where she helped get over 170 kids to camp, as well as a camper parent.

Although there was no Torchbearer Ceremony when Meghan aged out of her time as a camper, she has certainly exemplified what it means to light the way for others, and her dedication to Camp Tecumseh is nearly unmatched.

AS A CAMPER

Meghan’s camp experience started like most: by word of mouth. Her father heard from a family friend in Champaign, Illinois about this place Camp Tecumseh, and he enrolled his daughters.

Her first summer was 1981 as a 10 year old camper. Camp Tecumseh in the early 1980s was sort of in an in-between era – not primitive, but not nearly as comfortable as today. Meghan remembers metal bunks, cement floors, and walking to the shower house.

In her memory, it was a few summers in when Tecumseh became such a popular summer ticket item. She remembers because she was waitlisted but, lucky for her, she got the call.

“Dick Marsh, who was the director at that time, called my mom about two days before camp started and said, ‘Tell her to pack her bags.’ And I went for two weeks, and that was probably the best summer of my life.”

Being waitlisted for that short period catapulted a love for Camp that never went away.

“I wasn’t in love with it the first three years. But then because I wasn’t able to go, I was like, ‘I want to go so bad.’

AS SUMMER STAFF

For Meghan, working at Camp was a total natural next step after her years as a camper.

“I loved camp so much. It was my everything… My friends and I – my core group of friends that I still talk to, literally everyday – we all knew that’s what we were going to do. We were going to work at camp.”

She worked for five straight summers during her college years. After graduation, she moved briefly to Chicago before traveling to Australia and New Zealand with her sister. She eventually moved back to Champaign where she commuted to Eastern Illinois University for her teaching certification.

And she wasn’t done with Camp. She worked in the summers again in 1999 as the CAC Queen (Creative Arts Center Director), and again in 2000.

It was the relationships and connections that brought her back each summer.

“I’m good friends with some of my campers now. We’ve been adult friends for a long time.”

And those core group of friends she said she talks to every day? They’re spread all over the country in Oregon, Maryland, Texas, Michigan, and Minnesota, which doesn’t prevent them from the closeness they found at Camp. I asked her why she thought those relationships have stayed so strong over all these years.

“It’s the relationship building, and a complete safe space and unconditional acceptance and love.”

Around this time, Meghan got a teaching job in the Lawrence Township schools and has been with that same district for 24 years.

We took a break in our interview to look through a full archive’s worth of photos and artifacts from her time as a camper and summer staff member. Throughout the entire evening, but especially through this scrapbook reminiscing, Meghan’s daughter, Amelia, was close by and often chiming in on details of her mother’s camp stories that she’s heard before.

Parallel to her years in the Lawrence Township schools is her involvement with the Camp Tecumseh Mentorship Program.

AS A MENTOR

Since 2000, Meghan has helped 170 kids experience over 526 weeks of Camp Tecumseh summer camp. In her 24th summer, she will thoughtfully select 40 campers to attend Summer Camp in 2023. But it started small.

She still remembers the first three campers in 2000. One of Meghan’s first campers has now sent three of her children to camp with Meghan’s mentorship.

She doesn’t just find a kid and send them on their way. She keeps tabs, and lists, and knows how old they all are and if they’re still eligible to attend Camp.

“I have a list of all my kids. What grade they’re in now. What their birthday is. And I know who’s coming up on CILTS or aging out.”

She’s sort of always scouting. Her school is first through sixth grade, and she usually looks for kids who are on the older side, who are more set up for success once they arrive at Camp.

“I send kids to camp who, given the opportunity, will flourish.”

Of course, it’s not always easy. Camp is not a familiar idea for many people who have never really been exposed to it.

“The hardest part is convincing the family who has no knowledge of what camp is like, and no experience in sending their child away.”

 

For Meghan, the impact of the camp experience is worth the leg work it takes to be a mentor.

“I stalk the website for photos. I can’t wait to see them and then ask them about it.”

Meghan’s longevity and continued participation in Camp Tecumseh is unique. But what doesn’t seem to be unique is this love she harbors for this place. That is the thread that so many are tethered to as well.

Meghan has even reconnected to her own counselors. “Because of you, I’m still connected to Camp.” And surely there are a number of people who have been under her mentorship, or former campers who feel the same about her.

I always ask people I interview the same final question: why does a camp experience matter? Meghan ended our conversation with a thought that I think will resonate with a lot of people.

“For me, it matters because it shaped my entire everything.”

 

 

Meet the Spring 2023 Outdoor Education Staff

Meet the Spring 2023 Outdoor Education Staff

Our Outdoor Education staff team talked through goals for how to grow ourselves in mind, body, spirit (personal flourishing) and also how one of our major missions for OE is to create spaces and experiences where we can support the flourishing and growth of our school communities outside of the school building. We can’t wait to meet all the students experiencing unique and immersive outdoor field trips this Spring.

Learn more about our Outdoor Education program.

Scroll to meet the team.

Lauren “Lobo” McCleary

Where are you from?
My family hails originally from the Wolves Den of Camp Tecumseh was displaced to far off Memphis, Tennessee for several years. I am happy to return to have returned to my familial home on the Tippecanoe River.

What are you most excited about for this Spring season with Outdoor Education?
I am always excited to see our forests blossom and bloom in the Spring as our Spring flowers and school groups return.

What is one way you are hoping to grow while at Camp?
I am looking forward to building impactful relationships with our students, teachers, and the staff who are joining us this season.

Keith “Kilimanjaro” Kalish

Where are you from?
I grew up in Belleville, Illinois, close to the mighty Mississippi River and St. Louis.

What are you most excited about for this Spring season with Outdoor Education?
Seeing students, chaperones, parents, and teachers coming together here at Tecumseh, and experiencing a little glimpse of camp. Watching the seasonal staff guide, lead, and provide the best camp experience for all our students and guests.

What is one way you are hoping to grow while at Camp?
I hope to inspire and mentor the seasonal staff as they grow personally, professionally, and as good human beings in this natural environment and community at camp.

Kaleb “Kudu” Buchanan

Where are you from?
I am from Springfield, Illinois.

What are you most excited about for this Spring season with Outdoor Education?
I am most excited to be working with groups in nature at a time when new growth is happening and I can share the beauty of nature with them.

What is one way you are hoping to grow while at Camp?
I am hoping to grow antlers while here at camp. Every self-respecting Kudu should have some.

Sydney “Serengeti” Chaney

Where are you from?
Crawfordsville, Indiana

What are you most excited about for this Spring season with Outdoor Education?
To create more memorable experiences with our incredible school groups and the Outdoor Education staff!

What is one way you are hoping to grow while at Camp?
I hope to continue to grow in the same foundations we teach students in our Foundations for Success program: trust, self-confidence, communication, leadership, and problem solving!

Isaac “Iguana” DeMoss

Where are you from?
I am from the noble forests of northern Indiana.

What are you most excited about for this Spring season with Outdoor Education?
I am the most excited to be in the great outdoors exploring nature and helping others to learn about our wonderful world.

What is one way you are hoping to grow while at Camp?
I am hoping to grow in my communication skills so that I can better learn about all the cool people and critters that come to camp.

Taylor “Thunder” Moore

Where are you from?
I originally formed over the Barren Fork River in Middle Tennessee, but now you can catch me rolling through the troposphere over Camp Tecumseh.

What are you most excited about for this Spring season with Outdoor Education?
I am filled with electricity to bring April showers to help May flowers and the youth grow and flourish.

What is one way you are hoping to grow while at Camp?
I want to be a light in the storm and to become more grounded.

Rachel “Rock” Naylor

Where are you from?
I grew up in Fishers, Indiana but now spend my days rockin’ and rollin’ at camp!

What are you most excited about for this Spring season with Outdoor Education?
I love seeing camp come back to life, the flowers blooming, trees becoming green again, the oak forest smelling like wild onion, and camp being full of kids!

What is one way you are hoping to grow while at Camp?
I would personally love to grow into a big strong tall mountain. I would also like to grow more in my plant identification!

Graham “Glacier” Johnson

Where are you from?
Olympus Mons, Jupiter, fifth planet from the Sun.

What are you most excited about for this Spring season with Outdoor Education?
I am excited to be a leader for our younger generation, and allow them to interact with nature and learning in a way they are not normally able to in their daily life.

What is one way you are hoping to grow while at Camp?
I am hoping to grow in beard size, in my close connections with others, my connection with nature, and to grow in my knowledge and experience in camping.

Lauren “Leech” Hardebeck

Where are you from?
Under a rock in the shallow, dark waters of the Tippecanoe River.

What are you most excited about for this Spring season with Outdoor Education?
I am most excited for the people! The school communities that come to Camp are full of the most wonderful students, teachers, and chaperones who are here to learn and grow together. This, along with the Outdoor Education staff, is going to make for a wonderful season!

What is one way you are hoping to grow while at Camp?
I am hoping to grow in my outdoor knowledge, and use this to further my own understanding of the world and my teaching.

Sheila “Spring” Wilimitis

Where are you from?
Burlington, Indiana.

What are you most excited about for this Spring season with Outdoor Education?
I am most excited about seeing the energy and excitement of students and teachers and chaperones as they participate in fun and creative learning activities. I also love to watch students grow in character and confidence as they learn teamwork and take on new challenges.

What is one way you are hoping to grow while at Camp?
I am hoping to grow in my group facilitation skills, teaching techniques, and always improving my ability to help people feel loved and valued.

Camille “Creek” Jones

Where are you from?
I sprung from the waters of the Cal-say River near Orland Park, Illinois but now spend my time chilling by the Tippecanoe.

What are you most excited about for this Spring season with Outdoor Education?
I am excited to introduce more communities to what Camp Tecumseh has to offer and also for mushroom season!

What is one way you are hoping to grow while at Camp?
The mission of the YMCA is to grow in mind, body, and spirit which is what I wish to constantly develop within myself.

Josh “Jack Rabbit” Schrock

Where are you from?
Lebanon, Indiana.

What are you most excited about for this Spring season with Outdoor Education?
I’m most excited to be having fun outside, eating fresh greens, and welcoming in the warm weather!

What is one way you are hoping to grow while at Camp?
A goal of mine is to grow in my overall team working abilities, more specifically my communication and leadership.

Carolyn “Cobra” Oneal

Where are you from?
I hatched as a small little snake in West Lafayette, Indiana, before slithering down the Tippecanoe River to reside here at Camp Tecumseh!

What are you most excited about for this Spring season with Outdoor Education?
I am excited to bring my love for nature and adventure to the students that come visit! When we step outside the classroom, we give students an opportunity to learn something new about themselves, their peers, and even their teachers. I am very passionate about hands-on experiences with the outdoors in order to learn about the world around us, and camp is a great place to do that.

What is one way you are hoping to grow while at Camp?
I hope to grow in my teaching techniques and group facilitation, so I can take these skills with me in future careers. Although cobras tend to be solitary creatures, I am always looking to learn more about the world and the people that inhabit it, so I want to grow in my communication and listening skills to foster those relationships.

Can Camp Help Solve the Mental Health Crisis?

From the Desk of Joel Sieplinga

Can Camp Help Solve the Mental Health Crisis?

by Joel Sieplinga

The end of the year is a busy time in the Sieplinga house. Two young kids, both with December birthdays, mixed in with all of the Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations makes for a lot of gatherings with friends and family. The other day, after several days of back-to-back parties, my (almost) 8-year-old asked from the backseat of the car, “who’s coming over today?” When we answered that no one was coming over, it was – gasp – just us, my son asked if we could invite some friends over.

We are made for community.

Even those who consider themselves introverted are hard-wired to connect with others. It’s not just my family, either. All people, but particularly teens, need connection with others. And there is a connection and friendship deficit in our culture right now. Consider this from a recent article in the Washington Post:

“Studies have shown that children who develop supportive, trusting friendships with others their age are more likely to become healthy, happy and professionally successful adults. This insight may be particularly timely, because so many teens are struggling. Psychiatric emergency room visits have been rising among adolescents, and top health authorities are warning that the United States is in the midst of a teen mental health crisis that the pandemic has only intensified.”

And this from Mental Health First Aid:

“No matter how old you are or what you’re going through, healthy and close friendships encourage positive mental health and well-being.”

Thankfully, there is not a friendship deficit at camp. We have designed our programs for this very cause. That is why we have so many intentional spaces at camp. The fire pits in front of each cabin are situated so that a group of dads and daughters can talk, share stories, and laugh during a weekend campout. The opening campfire at River Village is round, so you can look across and see the other students in your class singing and laughing to Boom-chika-boom.

As I have been giving tours of the soon-to-be-complete Barbara F. Kampen Dining Hall, I emphasize the number of round tables that can fit in the dining space. Tables where kids, counselors, families, and groups will be able to gather around a meal and talk. For some of our campers, the only times when they sit down and talk over dinner, uninterrupted from a screen, is around Thanksgiving or Christmas, and in the dining halls of Camp Tecumseh.

And so, as you load up into the car, on your way to yet another gathering, whether you are excited about seeing more people, or secretly wishing you could just stay at home alone in your pajamas, remember the fourth line from the Sagamore Creed: My friends are important to me and I am important to them, therefore I will care for my friendships and help them to grow.

With your support, we can change the world. We can be a place that builds community builders and leaders. Help us out at www.camptecumseh.org/give.

A Landing Place

A Landing Place

The Perfect Job for a Transition

by Lauren Hardebeck

The last four years I have stuck to a routine. With the exception of summer camp being canceled in 2020, my life has been pretty much the same. College. Summer camp. College. Summer camp. Etcetera. What happens after you have flipped the tassel on your cap and you no longer have the college part to go back to?

Enter the “transitionary period.”

This is a weird time where you are trying to figure out what your next move is, while everyone in your life is telling you that you will “figure it out” and “whatever happens, happens.” You see it in movies about twenty-somethings or listen to how others have grown from it in podcasts, and I always thought I was above this period because I knew what I wanted to do next. I was going to move to a big city and be a teacher.

As it turns out, I realized that the plan that I had for post graduation was not super realistic for me at the moment. This is a tough reality to face. I have spent my entire adult life thus far preparing for a specific career. So when I was faced with the hard decision of what to do next, I turned to one of my favorite places. I found a soft spot to land among Camp Tecumseh’s Outdoor Education department. The position of Outdoor Education Instructor gave me the best of both worlds. Not only was I getting to teach and interact with school communities, but I got to work outside at a beautiful place with the most incredible people. It is exactly what I wanted, and what I would soon discover, I needed.

I would like to think of myself as someone who is cautiously eager, meaning I am so excited about trying and learning, but can be hesitant about all of the trying and learning. What if I fail? What if I disappoint the people around me? I had worked the last three summers at Camp in several different roles and felt really comfortable with what that day-to-day looked like. I was entering a new challenge and a new role. Little did I know the growth that was going to come from this position and the support that I would have along the way.

Starting OE gave me confidence about things that I had feared in the past. I have always known that I was a hard worker, but was afraid that I lacked the knowledge of basic skills on how to get the job done. For instance, I had never used an electric drill, vacuumed taxidermy, held snakes, or drove (let alone backed up) a pickup truck. All of which I can say I have learned about (and successfully completed!) during my time this fall. These may seem silly and small to some, but it made me feel so accomplished and proud of myself.

The best part about all of this is that I wasn’t alone. Not only was there an outstanding full-time team that was patient, skilled, and never hesitated to answer any questions (and I ask a LOT of questions), but I was working with a group of 10 fantastic souls out in the field. People like Spring, who always packed an extra Golden Oreo for me in her lunch because she knew that I liked them. Or Rock, who decorated my doorway for my birthday.

One of the special things about OE is that not only are you working, but you are living among the people that make your job so great. The memories I hold of laughing and adventures warm my soul everyday. It was bowling nights to celebrate a staff member before he headed back to Brazil, and exploring local state parks and museums (something I really had never done as a local). Or my favorite: Lunchtime Kombucha in which I made the girls who lived with me taste different flavors of Kombucha on our lunch break and rate it on a thumb-up, thumb-down, or thumb-in-the-middle spectrum. I would then post the reviews on my food Instagram for other Camp people and seasonal staff to interact with.

There were movie nights and pumpkin carving parties and nightly walks with beautiful sunsets. These are friends and memories that are so meaningful and full of joy that it is hard to transcribe their impact in words.

The fall 2022 season of Outdoor Education served around 50 schools and hundreds of students, teachers, and parents. A team of 14 spectacular, kind, and hard-working people banded together through late nights, schedule changes, and lifting pine logs in order to give students and chaperones a chance to be outside and learn from the three unique programs that Camp offers. (Though the pine logs are just my personal nemesis.)

There is a wood sign in the Outdoor Education office situated right above the door. Every time you leave, the sign is the last thing you see. It says: “It is a real job.” If I could add to the sign above the office door, I would change it to say “It is a real job. It is the best job. A job where you will make an impact and work with the most extraordinary people. A job where you will grow in teaching skills, life skills, and (most important of all) people skills. A real job that like any other will be hard sometimes, but where you will feel so much joy and guidance and friendship and love.”

But, I don’t know if we have a piece of wood long enough for that.

 

Learn more about working in Outdoor Education at Camp Tecumseh.

Meet the Fall 2022 Outdoor Education Team

Meet the Fall 2022 Outdoor Education Team

Bee Builders. That’s the theme going into the Fall 2022 Outdoor Education season for this newly assembled group of OE staff. Like bees, this group is going to focus on building the structures that help the communities we serve flourish while they are here. Let’s get to know them.

Learn more about our Outdoor Education program.

Lauren “Lobo” McCleary

What were you up to before working at Camp?
I was a middle school teacher in Memphis, Tennessee.

What drew you to join the Outdoor Education team?
My favorite part of Outdoor Education is seeing the communities we serve grow and learn together while they are here. It’s a joy to see our parents, teachers, and students build relationships and have adventures together outside of a traditional school classroom.

Favorite Camp activity
Lobo enjoys playing with the mini-farm animals (not eating them of course!) and snacking on sour candy from the Trading Post.

Special Talent
Lobo’s special talent is being able to curl up and fall asleep under any circumstances. But don’t test it!

OE Name Origin Story
Lobo’s family hails originally from the Wolves Den of Camp Tecumseh, but was displaced to far off lands the last several years. She is happy to return to her familial home on the Tippecanoe.

Keith “Kiliminjaro” Kalish

What were you up to before working at Camp?
Before working at camp, I graduated college with a double major in Religious Studies and Psychology, and a minor in Social Work. I attended seminary and received an MA in Pastoral Care and Counseling. During college and graduate school, I worked for several church camps, working as a camp counselor.

What drew you to join the Outdoor Education team?
What drew me to Camp’s Outdoor Education is the opportunity to work with students, being outside, and teaching students to work as a successful group or team. Also, learning about nature and teaching hands-on learning from a historical perspective. The more I worked outdoors with students, I gained skills, confidence, and knowledge. This led to learning new skills of animal handling, teaching techniques, time management, children behavior, and working with a partner.

Favorite Camp activity
Walking/ hiking through the Oak Forest towards Ghost Creek, and seeing the smiles of students exploring the Nature Center.

Special Talent
As a mountain, the tallest in the African Continent, observing staff, students, chaperones, and guests at camp, and hearing the sounds of people climbing uphill. Being a free standing mountain, not part of an extended mountain range, teaching people the importance of this mountain or having students learn interesting things about nature that is unique.

OE Name Origin Story
I started as a young mount of dirt in the river valley in South Central Africa. I grew taller from the effects of a volcano forming a mighty single mountain range, with three summits. As a mountain, I enjoyed seeing the wildflowers blooming in the spring, hearing the water melting on top and flowing down the mountain to the rivers and lakes during summer, and hearing the birds migrating throughout the fall season. Winter is pleasant when snow falls on the top of the mountain.

Kaleb “Kudu” Buchanan

 

Sydney “Serengeti” Chaney

What were you up to before working at Camp?
Teaching 6th grade ELA in Crawfordsville, Indiana.

What drew you to join the Outdoor Education team?
I love education and the outdoors, so why not combine it?

Favorite Camp activity
The Black Hole and Campfires!

Special Talent
Pro speed walker

OE Name Origin Story
Serengeti rose from the plains of the African wildlife. She was interested in Indiana sunsets and migrated to Camp Tecumseh.

Camille “Creek” Jones

What were you up to before working at Camp?
I am taking a gap year and was doing seasonal work in the Rockies.

What drew you to join the Outdoor Education team?
As someone with a passion for Environmental Sciences, and as a camp counselor, I was drawn to Outdoor Education. As Hannah Montana once said, “You get the best of both worlds.” I am super excited to give students a fun, hands-on learning experience in nature’s classroom.

Favorite Camp activity
Finding deer in the woods and yelling, “Deer!”

Special Talent
Making snail candles.

OE Name Origin Story
Creek first sprung out of Lake Michigan and trickled into Illinois before traveling downstream to the Tippecanoe. After spending a summer at Tecumseh, she learned to go with the flow and is ready for the fall season.

Carolyn “Cobra” Oneal

What were you up to before working at Camp?
I finished studying English Education at Indiana University. While at school, I also participated in IU’s Dance Marathon for four years.

What drew you to join the Outdoor Education team?
Bringing together my love for camp, the outdoors, and making education fun for everyone. I’m so excited to explore nature and bring joy and love for the outdoors to students.

Favorite Camp activity
Visiting the Nature Center to see my friends Milkshake and Indy. Wandering through the woods and looking at all the flowers and plants.

Special Talent
Treading water for an extremely long period of time.

OE Name Origin Story
Cobra hatched not far from Camp Tecumseh in West Lafayette and traveled along the river to spend the season here! She spent many summers by the Tippecanoe River exploring camp, and is so excited for the fall season. Cobra slithers and slides and dances her way through all of camp’s adventures.

Graham “Glacier” Johnson

What were you up to before working at Camp?
I was at college and then some odd jobs here and there.

What drew you to join the Outdoor Education team?
It sounded like a great program surrounded by a lot of amazing people.

Favorite Camp activity
I love floating in the clouds above camp and playing 9-square with the fairies.

Special Talent
I can fly, but only if everyone in a mile radius is asleep.

OE Name Origin Story
I was so chill that I started to freeze and turn into a glacier.

Isaac “Iguana” DeMoss

What were you up to before working at Camp?
I was working at Camp Weaver in North Carolina.

What drew you to join the Outdoor Education team?
The opportunity to work outdoors with other people and help kids experience the outdoors.

Favorite Camp activity
The Black Hole.

Special Talent
I am ambidextrous.

OE Name Origin Story
I came from a large herd of Iguanas in Indiana – right here in the woods close to Camp Tecumseh. I’ve been around Camp my whole life and I like to show others how awesome it can be.

Josh “Jack Rabbit” Schrock

What were you up to before working at Camp?
Jack Rabbit has previously worked Outdoor Education at Tecumseh before this Fall season.

What drew you to join the Outdoor Education team?
The opportunity to work outdoors and teach kids about the world around them.

Favorite Camp activity
Little did you know, but rabbits actually have a natural talent at rock climbing. Jack Rabbit loves to climb when he gets the chance.

Special Talent
Ever so often, Jack Rabbit will find himself being pulled out of hats. He’s not sure why, or how.

OE Name Origin Story
Jack Rabbit comes from central Indiana, and made the move to Camp Tecumseh partially because of the abundance of garlic mustard – a favorite snack.

Lauren “Leech” Hardebeck

What were you up to before working at Camp?
I just graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Elementary Education. Prior to graduating, I completed my student teaching in New Mexico in Kindergarten and 1st grade.

What drew you to join the Outdoor Education team?
For so long, I have been focused on what education looks like within the classroom. Outdoor Education allows school communities to not only be outside, but to have interactive experiences that allow for further understanding of themselves, the world around them, and the people that came before them.

Favorite Camp activity
Leech’s favorite activity is walking around camp, making sure to take in the wildlife and nature.

Special Talent
Leech does a great goat impression.

OE Name Origin Story
Hidden in the shallow, dark waters of the Tippecanoe River, Leech was born with a thirst for knowledge about the world and people around her! She saw the light in Camp Tecumseh’s Outdoor Education where she is excited to help school communities learn more about the natural world!

Nik “Newt” Watson

What were you up to before working at Camp?
I helped run a before and after school program.

What drew you to join the Outdoor Education team?
I love teaching and I love camp, so a combination of the two sounds like a dream.

Favorite Camp activity
My favorite camp activity is the team course.

Special Talent
I can sing the ABCs in two seconds.

OE Name Origin Story
Newt was raised in the swamps of Europe and was crystalized and reborn a newt.

Rachel “Rock” Naylor

What were you up to before working at Camp?
Rock has been working at camp in many capacities, including previous Outdoor Education seasons, prior to this fall.

What drew you to join the Outdoor Education team?
I grew up coming to camp, fell in love with camp, ended up going to IU and got a degree in recreation, and haven’t looked back. I believe every kid needs camp!

Favorite Camp activity
Watching camp sunsets, and stargazing.

Special Talent
Getting stung by bees, and balancing water bottles on my head.

OE Name Origin Story
Rock hails from the mountains of Camp Tecumseh where she likes to spend time in the pine forest. You can usually find Rock rockin’ and rollin’ around camp looking for the coolest rock.

Sheila “Spring” Wilimitis

What were you up to before working at Camp?
20 years of church ministry (Director of Youth Ministry, Adult Discipleship & Outreach). Three years as an Elderly Caregiver.

What drew you to join the Outdoor Education team?
I have a degree in Secondary Education (Social Studies) from Ball State. Hands-on education in the great outdoors can be transformational. It can give young people a deeper appreciation for the world (and ecosystems) around them and their unique and special and necessary place in it.

Favorite Camp activity
Walking in the pine and oak forests. Enjoying the view of the Tippecanoe River from the River Village Dining Hall porch.

Special Talent
Capturing the beauty and brilliance of nature’s designs through photography.

OE Name Origin Story
Spring first sprang into Camp Tecumseh in the Spring of 1995. Many seasons passed until it was time for her return. She enjoys watching new life spring up in the form of colorful flowers, green plants, tall trees, playful animals, and exciting discoveries made by young people as they engage with nature, their peers, and caring adults.

Zayner “Zebra” Silva de Olivira

What were you up to before working at Camp?
College, with a major in psychology.

What drew you to join the Outdoor Education team?
The chance to keep practicing my english and doing a new challenge – something that I’ve never done before.

Favorite Camp activity
My favorite camp activity would be blobbing summer campers, trying to make them reach the sun.

Special Talent
I can wiggle my ring finger, and can communicate with birds.

OE Name Origin Story
Zebra ate too much rice as a child which changed his body composition. One day, he woke up being able to speak english and decided to put it to the test by coming to the US from Brazil.

From the Desk of Joel Sieplinga | Summer 2022

From the Desk of Joel Sieplinga

Summer 2022

by Joel Sieplinga

Help kids make friends.

Model God’s Love.

These were the words I shared with the Overnight and Day Camp staff on their first days of Staff Training. That’s the job, and that is what we hope for every camper, but also every staff member, weekend group, and school who visit Camp Tecumseh. It’s a seemingly simple model that makes a profound difference.

According to studies, teenagers who have a close friend are less likely to experience anxiety and depression later in life. By modeling and leading with God’s Love, we aren’t ignoring our differences, but rather we’re saying that Loving our Neighbor is more important than any difference we might have.

Our world is increasingly challenging and divisive and while Camp Tecumseh is not immune to that, we also know that small steps can help to make our communities a better place. By helping kids (and adults) make friends and by modeling God’s Love, we believe we are equipping folks to navigate the difficult world around them. 

As I walk around camp and hear the conversations happening and watch the friendships forming, I can’t help but be optimistic and thankful for Camp Tecumseh!

From Tecumseh to TV

From Tecumseh to TV

A former Day Camp counselor wins MasterChef

by Sam Hirt

Something is very evident about Kelsey Murphy: she likes the pressure.

“I work best under pressure. I’m kind of one of those people where if you ask me to do it, I’ll execute and do it.”

For example, being a contestant on MasterChef, the widely popular TV series where amateur chefs compete in weekly elimination challenges (and get endearingly screamed at by Gordon Ramsey). Oh, and doing this with a knife wound to her finger. Oh, and with a baby on the way.

“I was definitely in my element.”

But she wasn’t just a contestant. Kelsey Murphy was the winner of MasterChef Season 11.

In her mind, making the leap to compete on this show, across the country from her family and her job, was done because of a similar decision back in high school when she decided to work at Camp Tecumseh. More on that later.

Working at camp was a natural fit for Kelsey. She was a leader in her youth group. She grew up going to summer camp in Wisconsin. When she started working at Tecumseh, she felt like it made sense.

“I felt like I was able to blossom into a more independent person.”

Kelsey seems to gravitate towards some intense challenges. She grew up as a gymnast. When she went to college at Indiana University, she walked on to the rowing team where she eventually earned a scholarship. And cooking is not that different. It’s intense and fast, especially when you’re competing on television.

Working at camp can feel similar, minus the TV.

“If I’m going to do something, I love to immerse myself in it, and really dive into the culture and atmosphere.”

“I was able to blossom into a more independent person.” 

Working at camp is incredibly immersive. Rather than working shifts and then going home like a standard job, a day camp or overnight camp counselor lives at Camp. It’s that immersion that creates lifelong friendships and such meaningful memories. Plus, while you’re immersed in the camp world, you are building the most essential skills for any future career.

“So many people are focused on internships or a resume builder. But there’s no better resume builder than having good social skills, good experiences, good things that make you a mature human being – there would be no better life skill job than working at camp.”

Fresh off the heels of winning MasterChef, Kelsey looks back on her time on staff at Tecumseh and sees a common thread.

“There’s one connection that links those two things perfectly. I have always been a do-what-you’re-supposed-to-do person.”

 

As a high level gymnast from childhood through high school, her time was spent focused on that singular thing. But when the opportunity came to work at Camp Tecumseh, she knew she wanted that experience.

“I grew up going to camp. I wanted to be part of that again. I felt very controlled by the expectations around me. I feel like a lot of high schoolers feel that.”

Working at camp in her late high school years gave her the opportunity to learn a little more about herself, and about her own goals.

“Tecumseh gave me that release of, ‘Hey, here’s me again.’ I found myself again. I found my confidence. I found my individuality, my own maturity and responsibility, away from the adults in my life who were telling me what I should be doing.”

Then after working at camp, Kelsey accomplished the traditional route: college, degree, husband, great job, kids. All wonderful things. But when the opportunity came to be part of MasterChef, an opportunity that could definitely throw a wrench into their family’s normal life plans, she had the similar feeling from high school when she knew she wanted the Day Camp staff experience.

“Those two experiences are so closely linked. They are pillars in my life who brought me back to me.”

And speaking of things being linked, I asked her about her memory of camp food.

“Honestly, it was actually pretty good. I have fond memories of camp food. There was so much joy that went along with it. It was so much fun.”

“Food isn’t about the food. It’s about sitting around the table with the people you love and care about.”

My final question is a big question, and one that I ask everyone I talk to: why does camp matter?

She paused, thought about it, and said, “Well, when I think about camp I just smile and laugh. Camp to me is joy. Everything is so serious and scheduled and regimented. At camp, you’re away from technology and in the outdoors. People are craving that.”

If you’re in the Indy area, visit Kelsey’s restaurant, Inspo, at the Sun King Fishers Test Kitchen.