Emma Foley ’21 creates a new summer camp in Walla Walla, WA

Hey there! My name is Emma, I’m a rising junior, and I’ve spent many a summer at camp. I fondly remember making friendship bracelets duct-taped to picnic tables, or mini log cabins out of popsicle sticks, or smiling suns out of paper plates; pelting counselors with water balloons and noodle-racing in the pond. I remember celebrating my camp’s 85th anniversary, where I marveled at just how long this huge place — home to dozens of counselors and hundreds of campers — had been making summer magic.

Camp was an important, positive, and even sacred part of a lot of people’s growing up, so you can imagine how excited and daunted I felt when, in June, my fellow interns Ruby and Noah and I sat down with one big task: to create a new summer camp. The Pioneer United Methodist Church’s goal was to create a low-cost program for elementary school-aged kids called Explore! that would provide meals and snacks, promote literacy and learning, and would take place over two weeks in July. This summer was a pilot: a smaller-scale test run to determine the resources and planning necessary to start a program they hope to grow in future years. 

Our internship was divided into three parts: planning, execution, and review. We landed on “Around the World” as the theme of the first week and decided to explore a new country every day to promote cultural literacy. Ruby, Noah, and I rotated teaching lessons on the country’s history and language, and some amazing volunteers from the church lent their skills in music and art. On Friday, we circled back to Walla Walla by learning about the CTUIR and visiting the Whitman Mission.

For week two, we delved into “What’s in Our World?” We learned about birds with a visit to the Pioneer Park Aviary, outer space at the Whitman Planetarium (many thanks to Professor Dobson for her presentation!) and rivers and dams at Mill Creek. We started both weeks at the public library where we checked out books both relating to the topics we were studying and for free reading, and ended both weeks with a barbecue for families where campers shared songs they learned and art they created. Every day, we wound down by writing reflections in passports and field journals.

Behind the scenes, the planning process also involved a whole lot of logistics–figuring out transportation, finalizing registration, and creating permission slips, emergency contact lists, rosters, and itineraries. The beginning of camp came with a flurry of paperwork that settled down into a daily routine involving a lot of fun, a lot of learning, and a really incredible group of kids.

In the blink of an eye, the two weeks of Explore! were over, and it was time to start the review process. We documented everything we did this year and gathered our ideas for how it could grow and change next year. Something I found really exciting about this internship is that we worked in both small strokes (e.g. “Which topics were engaging? Which activities were fun?”) and broad strokes (e.g. “What budget should PUMC allocate for Explore! next year? What should the hiring process look like?”).  We presented our ideas to the PUMC staff, and just like that, we were done.

Working on Explore! was an amazingly rewarding experience for me that would not have been possible without the PUMC staff’s unyielding trust and support, as well as a fierce cohort of volunteers who tirelessly dedicated their time to getting the program on its feet, as well as giving me, Ruby, and Noah invaluable guidance. Thank you!

Experiences like Emma Foley’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez

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