LARAMIE, WYOMING (May 30, 2020) — With certain outdoor recreation activities tentatively set to resume this summer, there still remains a significant amount of uncertainty as to what will be available or safe to do, especially for young children.
The University of Wyoming’s Division of Social Work is partnering with the UW Division of Kinesiology and Health, the UW Office of Engagement and Outreach, and the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation to provide youngsters the experience of going to a summer camp while having that experience delivered right to their front door.
Kym Codallos, an associate lecturer with the Division of Social Work, along with students from the divisions of Social Work and Kinesiology and Health, collaborated to create summer camp kits that can be mailed directly to youngsters upon request.
Each camp kit includes age-appropriate content for the recipient and lays out activities specific to developmental needs.
Contents include a sports backpack, camp T-shirt, water bottle, sports and fitness gear, and an age/grade-level activity book.
Camp activities begin the first week of June and run through the end of July.
The cost of receiving a summer camp kit is $30.
To request a kit, or for more camp information, call Codallos at (307) 766-5490 or email [email protected].
“We have all experienced a lot of changes and losses over the last several months,” Codallos says.
“The activities within the summer camp kits will help young people process the various losses that they have encountered throughout this tumultuous year, while also enhancing their coping skills and abilities through fun activities in the comfort and safety of their homes.”
Camp participants will meet with a “virtual camp counselor” each week, using a Zoom meeting format.
Virtual counselors are student volunteers from the UW College of Health Sciences.
Student counselors will not only provide support in planning for upcoming camp activities but also will serve as someone to talk with and be available to discuss topics related to stress that youngsters might be experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Counselors will interact with campers each Friday during the summer camp term, with additional contact times upon request.
“This is my first time being a camp counselor specifically,” says Alexa Becerra, a senior from Cheyenne in the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program.
“But, I have experience being a student mentor for the Wyoming Latina Youth Conference and co-leading a few groups — for example, at the Laramie jail and a group for the Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.”
Given the uncertainty of the times, student counselors will not have scripted dialogue to follow.
“Our interactions with camp-goers will be freer flowing, as, unfortunately, our plans have changed with COVID-19,” notes Becerra.
“There will not be face-to-face interaction. We will be available, though, for parents or children with questions or just to meet with one of the camp counselors to talk.”
With the outdoor activities of summer completely altered, it is understandable that young people may not know exactly how to feel, or express their emotions to others, she adds.
“One of the main benefits, I hope, for those attending the camp is to receive a better understanding of their emotional feelings and needs when it comes to experiencing loss or grief,” Becerra says.
“Along with this is to find strategies or things that will help them cope with these feelings in a healthy manner.”
Julia Cathey, also a senior in the BSW program from Gillette, hopes to apply what she has learned through her social work education to better understand how to help young campers work through times of uncertainty.
“My experience really comes from being a social work student,” Cathey says.
“We take a lot of time studying human behavior and understanding where people come from.”
She adds that camp counselors are compiling plenty of great information, activities, and conversation starters for participants.
“I personally hope that the kids receiving these packets feel more comfortable talking about grief. Having them express their emotions is very important,” Cathey says.
“Grief has a way of making people shut down and go into themselves. Hopefully, these activities will help the kids to come back to life a little more and to be able to have healthy conversations.”
UW social work student camp counselors, listed by hometowns, are:
Rock Springs — Krista Heikes.
Casper — Jannelle Ordiway.
Cheyenne — Alexa Becerra and Mackenzie Hall.
Gillette — Julia Cathey.
Highlands Ranch, Colo. — Jamie Smiertelny.
Layton, Utah — Gabriel Gerrish.
Saratoga — Jessie Klein.
UW kinesiology and health student Jessie Gentle, from Mullaway, New South Wales, Australia, also is a camp counselor.