More than 130 Spring Lake Park High School students gave up the first week of their summer to attend a leadership camp at the high school.
The camp, in its 16th year, ran June 10-13. It aims to empower students to act in ways that benefit the community.
This year’s camp theme inspired students to be brave and take the actions necessary to be “game changers.”
Annually, all rising 10th- through 12th-grade students are invited to register for the camp, but about 600 students, nominated by their peers as exceptional leaders, receive special invitations to attend, according to camp organizer and high school social studies teacher Matt Meier.
Many students come back year after year.
Guerldyn Joanem, a rising junior, returned for a second leadership camp experience this year. “You’re not the only person who has insecurities and fears …,” she cited as one of the camp’s biggest takeaways.
At the beginning of the week, students were divided into small groups, where they discussed messages picked up throughout the week and worked together to create a video project called “Do, Do-over, DANCE.”
In their videos, students created skits that portrayed them reacting poorly in a situation, changing their reaction and, to keep things a little lighter, dancing.
All of the students came together for certain activities and speakers.
Volunteering with Feed My Starving Children in Coon Rapids was a highlight of the camp for Paige Davis, a rising sophomore.
Each year, the campers spend a large portion of one day volunteering with a nonprofit organization, according to Meier. “We’re trying to inspire social entrepreneurship,” he said.
During camp, students are pushed to try new things.
On the last day, students were dared to interact with fellow students and teachers that they didn’t know.
“Part of it is challenging kids to get outside their boundaries,” Meier said.
“Oh, this is so awkward,” said Isaaclina George, a rising sophomore, when she found out she had to serenade a stranger while holding his hand.
She found her bravery and crooned “You are my Sunshine” before returning to cheers from her small group.
The camp has grown every year, but George thinks it could be even bigger. “I think everyone should do it – it’s so worth it,” she said.
Six speakers talked with kids about being brave and working to make choices that benefit themselves and the wider community.
Meier; Eric Fawcett, a drummer in Spymob; Opportunities in Emergency Care instructor Bill Neiss; Kevin Kling, an acclaimed storyteller; Kelly Delfs, a District 11 School Board member; and Ryan Engle, a friend of Meier’s who shares the story of Welles Crowther, a 24-year-old who died saving others on 9/11, addressed the students during the four-day camp.
Olivia Koester is at