Auburn University students, studying special education, volunteered and taught at Auburn’s Therapeutic Summer Camp for part of this summer and for the past eight years.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
The camp started in 2000 by a group of parents who had children with intellectual disabilities.
The parents got together and formed the non-profit Exceptional Outreach Organization and then partnered up with Auburn University to create a camp that’s both beneficial for the campers and the students who help out.
The Exceptional Outreach program collaborates with the City of Auburn to put together a seven-week camp for those with disabilities from ages 15 to 58 years old.
Dana Stewart, the director of the camp, said the campers get to enjoy many activities like swimming, bowling, field trips, art, music, theatre and learning life skills, all the while improving their motor skills.
In the morning, the campers break into smaller groups with their counselor, who has special needs teaching education, to do various crafts and activities like board games and painting American flags.
According to Anne Finlen, a camper for the summer, the camp was a really great time and she met a lot of new friends.
This summers group of campers love to dance and sing karaoke, according to Stewart.
“One of the biggest lessons I have learned [from the camp] is to reach out to the community and let others use their talents to help make the camp more successful each year,” Stewart said.
Each day is a different “silly theme day” for the campers to dress up. And on Tuesdays and Thursdays the campers get to go swimming.
Ame Hill, a camper, said she was having a lot of fun and that her favorite part was going bowling and arts and crafts.
Twenty-one Auburn students were assigned to a specific group of campers at the start of the camp and, after a week of getting to know their group the students created specific lesson plans that focused on fostering skills for their daily lives.
Dayna Justice, a senior at Auburn University, said her experience at the camp was wonderful and she loved the creativity she was able to express when choosing a lesson plan that wasn’t limited to a specific subject.
Justice taught her group of students, ages 22 and 23, about like skills such as team work and knowing ones’ strengths.
“I think these two things are important because they will use teamwork within their home and while at work,” Justice said. “Knowing ones’ strengths will help the campers be able to identify good things about themselves, become more positive about themselves and be able to present those traits in a job interview.”
Justice felt the experience taught her that each camper is unique and different from the person next to them.
“Every student in my future classroom is going to be the same way,” Justice said. “They are all going to be vastly different, and I am going to have to accommodate to each child’s needs.”
Justice said another lesson that she will take from teaching at the camp is to simply enjoy life.
“The last day we had a dance party, and we were laughing and having so much fun just being ourselves,” Justice said. “Students with disabilities have taught me more about life than I could ever teach them.”
Justin Mayo, a senior at Auburn, taught the campers lessons that involved making healthy snacks to teach skills like reading recipes and following directions.
“Most people say that we, as special educators, make a difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities, but they rarely say that individuals with disabilities make a difference in the lives of others,” Mayo said. “With that being said, the most important lesson I learned and that I want everyone to know is that individuals with disabilities can and do make a difference in others' lives, in their communities and in our society.”
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman