| Jul 27, 2006

Feature Article - July 27, 2006

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Feature Article - July 27, 2006 Pete’s Camp: Two weeks that make the summer

by Jeff Green

The very last thing a lot of high school students would like to be doing in the summer is to spend time in the classroom, but the participants at Pete’s Camp did just that for two weeks this month, and enjoyed every minute of it.

The camp, which completed its second season this past Friday, is a project that was started by the Educational Assistants (EAs) who work in the Community to School Class at the school.

Two years ago this past June, when the Community to School Class was ending for the year, EA Jeff Ryan realised that the students in the class were parting from each other for a full three months, because they do not participate in exams, and were going to lose some of their connection to each other and the staff in the class.

He thought if they could get together for a couple of weeks in the summer, in a structured environment but without the normal school requirements, it might be very beneficial.


“So, when we came back to school in September of that year, which was 2004, I approached Principal Bruce Marchen about the idea of a two-week camp for the School to Community Class. He said that he would do whatever he could to help if I wanted to organise it,” Jeff Ryan said last week from Sydenham High School , as the second annual camp was winding down.

Jeff Ryan began working with the other EAs in the class, particularly Chris Henderson, and plans for the camp came together during the 2004-2005 school year.

A major hurdle, as with all similar projects, was funding.

That’s where Pete Lyons came in. Pete is the father of the person who was the Community to School teacher at the time, and he has a foundation that supports community projects. The foundation funded the first year of the camp. Hence the name, Pete’s Camp.

“We work hard to come up with activities for the camp that are enjoyable for the kids, and that they can all participate in at their own level. The great thing is that at camp we have access to the gym every day. During the school year we rarely get to use the gym,” said Chris Henderson, “because with 1000 students in a school that is really bursting at the seams, the gym is used all day every day for phys. ed. classes.

Participants in the camp have a wide range of capacities. The five staff members at the camp, Claire Notman, Michele Gordon, Josee Labrie, Jeff Ryan and Chris Henderson, along with student volunteer Noemie Baily, provide assistance where required to keep activities flowing.

“We want to make the camp fun; it is a camp after all. We had to deal - more last year than this year - with negative experiences that some of our guys have had at summer camps in the past,” said Chris Henderson.

Cooking is a part of the camp day, (on the day I visited, beaver tails were on the menu) as are crafts and, of course, time spent in the gym, using the full range of equipment the school has to offer.

The atmosphere among the staff and participants of the camp is very relaxed, and the day is as full with banter and laughter as it with activity.

The camp has also held special events, including a visit by the Purple Dragon Theatre Troupe, a puppet making session and a music session, and was scheduled to visit the Hershey Factory in Smiths Falls on the final day of camp last Friday.

As well as receiving support from the school administration and the school board, Pete’s Camp received a grant from the Autism Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater Kingston. These grants enabled the camp to operate this year, and Community Living North Frontenac has provided administrative support for the camp.

“Fundraising to keep the camp going each year is an ongoing concern,” said Jeff Ryan.

But Jeff Ryan, Chris Henderson, the rest of the staff and some dedicated parents will be putting their heads together to keep Pete’s Camp viable for years to come.

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