MUM’S THE WORD: Summer camp: Your ‘me’ in the making

Mum's the Word | Amanda Leitch-Lee

Sure, I got to spend time with my mother, but that only cuts it for so long. My mother wisely decided to let me loose at Montcalm Community College’s Fine Arts Camp each year when I was in my pre-teen years. I think she did this as much for my sanity as for hers.

The week-long experience was one of my favorite parts of the summer. I’m not a very crafty and artistic person, but in drama I sparkled, or at least I thought I did. I remember one very memorable role in a play “Little House on the Prairie.” Most people wanted to be the popular characters of Laura Ingalls or Nellie Oleson. I played the odds and tried for Laura’s sister, Mary. Not many were going for it and I still wanted a big part. I got the role. I had less than a week to remember my lines and become the stoic grace that was Mary.

I was going to take this role of Mary and run with it. I would be the star of the show. Maybe a person would see my natural talent and know somebody in show business. I even tried to convince the adults running the play it would be more interesting if Mary were blind, like she was in later years. That would make my part more juicy! They decided to go in another direction and go with Mary with sight.

It all came down to the big-Friday performance. We would use Heritage Village as our giant stage. It was like acting in a movie! The play was progressing nicely until we had to walk onto the school yard. When the extras in the schoolyard saw us they were supposed to go silent, and then I was supposed to say my line.
I don’t know if it was the heat or the realistic acting of the extras but I found myself not able to speak.

After waiting for seconds, which seemed like hours, the true star of the production, Laura, stepped forward and ad-libbed a line. To this day, I am not sure if anyone noticed. I never discussed it with my parents or peers. Secretly, I was hoping people would think it was Laura who messed up, which would’ve been a great relief to me then, but now, of course, I know that would have been selfish and mean. Looking back, those are magical memories. I was just starting to become the Amanda I am today. My flair for the dramatic was embraced at camp. I felt like I belonged.

And who cares if Mary forgot a line? Everyone wanted to hear what Nellie Oleson had to say, anyway.

Montcalm Community College Performing Arts Coordinator Valerie Vander Mark practices a vocal piece with Emma Skogseth during MCC’s 2008 Fine Arts Camp. More than 30 youths participated in the camp.

History of MCC’s summer camps

Montcalm Community College’s (MCC) summer camps were originally started by the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District (MAISD) in the early 1980s, when they were known as “Windmill Camps.”

According to Pat Willison, who served as MCC’s director of continuing education until her retirement in 2004, the camps began as a series of Saturday sessions, and most were four weeks in length. At the time, MCC partnered with the MAISD to offer the camps, Bill Lymangrover was MCC’s director of community services.

“He explained to me that they were so named ‘Windmill Camps’ to explore the children’s ‘windmills of the mind,’” Willison said of Lymangrover. “And, of course, that title also depicted the rural farm area upon which MCC was built.”

When the Saturday courses had run their course, MCC decided to continue the camps in the present form of week-long summer camps, again in a coordinated effort with the MAISD.

“At first, it was just Computer Camp,” Willison said. “The MAISD furnished the computers and MCC hired the instructors and provided the space to conduct the camps. When computers became more commonplace and enrollments declined, other camps were considered.”

At this time, MCC became the sole provider of the camps and looked at expanding the offerings. Fine Arts Camp was added and finally a Sports Camp. Eventually, Computer Camp was replaced with a Science Camp.

MCC Dean of Community Outreach Susan Hatto said MCC decided to continue offering the camps because they “fit the college’s mission of creating a learning community. The camps were viewed as a positive addition to the area’s educational needs.”

She said the camps continue to be popular today, with strong enrollments each year.

Charlotte Lothian, who served on the Greenville Area Arts Council when MCC began offering the week-long camps, said the council learned of MCC’s desire to expand the camps and discussed the possibility of starting and sponsoring an arts camp at the college.

Montcalm Community College Physical Science and Math Instructor Don Adkison, left, helps Brad Case launch his rocket during MCC’s 2010 science camp, which was based on the theme “Space Camp.”

“When the idea was proposed to MCC they were enthusiastic and off we went,” Lothian said. “The college was the sole sponsor with help from the Arts Council in publicity. There were many schools without arts programs and we felt that by offering this option in the summer we could help kids with interest in art, performing arts and music explore those areas of interest.”

Lothian served as the Fine Arts Camp director in the early years, and in the late 1980s, MCC Performing Arts Coordinator Val Vander Mark assumed the camp director role.

“I have many wonderful memories about our weeks at camp,” Lothian said. “I was always amazed at the creativity of the kids and how much they could accomplish in such a short time.”

Vander Mark said in 1990 the Fine Arts Camp became based on an annual theme.

“For the last several years, we have allowed the campers to generate a list of possible camp themes for the next year and vote on it on the last day of camp. That’s how we decide the theme for the following year,” Vander Mark said. “They come up with great ideas. Of course, they are creative kids.”


Fine Arts Day Camp themes

1990 – Old West
1991 – Japan
1992 – Space
1993 – Animals
1994 – Dinosaurs
1995 – Renaissance
1996 – Around the World
1997 – Native American
1998 – Egypt
1999 – Hollywood
2000 – Myths, Legends and Tall Tales
2001 – Colonial Daze
2002 – Magic
2003 – Back to the Future
2004 – Christmas in July
2005 – Medieval Mysteries
2006 – The Wonderful World of Witches and Wizards
2007 – Pirates!
2008 – Hollywood
2009 – Under the Sea
2010 – Old West
2011 – Greek and Roman Mythology
2012 – Egypt

Recent Science Camp themes

2006 –Fitness, Conservation and Dissection
2007 – Discovery Through Dissection, Chemistry Craziness and Saving the Savanna
2008 – Energy Stars
2009 – Critter Camp
2010 – Space Camp
2011 – The Earth
2012 – The Wonderful World of Nature

Camps 2012 edited descriptions

Fine Arts Camp: Ancient Egypt
Monday through Friday, June 25-29, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: $90
Camp director: Val VanderMark
Through art, dance, music, theater and filmmaking, third through eighth-graders are invited to discover Ancient Egypt. Campers select the following activities in order of preference and are assigned two: Ancient Art, Mystical Music, Mythological Moviemaking and Theater of Thebes. Breakfast and lunch will be served each day, and campers will use the gym daily.

Digital Writing Camp
Monday through Friday, June 18-22, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
D308/ Beatrice E. Doser Building in Sidney
Cost: $90
Camp directors: Shannon Powell & Kresta Train
Sixth- through ninth-graders explore writing and creativity and what that means in the ever-changing world of technology. Activities include using online technologies to make writing fun, group sharing and brainstorming sessions, daily writers’ walks and more. Breakfast and lunch is served each day and campers have access to the gym daily. Weather permitting, participants will also make use of MCC’s many outdoor facilities, including Heritage Village, the Kenneth J. Lehman Nature Trails and outdoor classrooms.

Camp Discovery: The Wonderful World of Nature
Tuesday through Thursday, July 10- 12, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
E108/Instruction East Building in Sidney
Cost: $60
Camp director: Heather Wesp
Join Camp Director Heather Wesp for a three-day exploration of the great outdoors. Campers travel to different habitats on campus and learn about different organisms and ecological processes. Campers are also exposed to the scientific method — creating and modifying their own experiments on a variety of topics. Breakfast and lunch is provided each day.

Outdoor Recreation Camp
Monday through Friday, July 16- 20, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Comden Towle Model Forest is on Lake Montcalm Road, two miles west of Entrican.
Camp director: Nicki White
Cost: $90
Campers experience the great outdoors through adventures in the woods, trail hikes, nature crafts, games and more. They learn about animals, trees and the natural environment, too. MCC’s Outdoor Recreation Camp is filled with fun activities designed for third- through eighth-graders and takes place at the Comden Towle Model Forest near Entrican. This camp is held outdoors and campers should dress for the weather. Breakfast and lunch is served each day.

Sports Camp
Monday through Friday, July 23-27, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Gym/Activities Building in Sidney
Camp director: Nicki White
Cost: $90
Third- through eighth-graders have fun learning new skills during this week-long camp which includes basketball, volleyball, soccer, tennis, swimming and many other sports! Breakfast and lunch is served each day and campers use the gym daily.

ACT Test Prep Boot Camp
Monday through Friday, July 30-Aug. 3, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
D303-305/Beatrice E. Doser Building
Camp director: Leslie Wood.
Cost: $150
Using the Cambridge program, ninth- through 12th-graders learn ACT test strategies during this boot camp. All campers are required to take a retired ACT pre-test from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on July 13 so test results are available for camp. During boot camp, campers receive a detailed analysis of the test results and learn powerful test-taking strategies. They also learn about test-anxiety, time management, basic skills review and exercises and practice tests. At the completion of the camp, campers take a final retired ACT test and receive detailed results to help with future review. Campers should bring a calculator to camp. Breakfast and lunch are provided each day. The required textbook is available in the MCC Bookstore and is used throughout camp.

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