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Camp Vision Builds Self-Esteem

August 20, 2010

Camp Vision, KSC’s summer camp for children with learning disabilities (LD) and/or attention deficit disorder (ADD), has been on campus the week of August 16-20.

Back in 2006, recent grad Marcus Soutra ‘06 and Amber Bergeron ‘07 developed the idea for the camp from their involvement with Project Eye-to- Eye, a nationwide organization in which college-age students with LD mentor younger LD kids.

The camp, and the Eye-to-Eye program, have been very successful at helping LD kids, who often feel that they can’t learn or accomplish anything, realize that they can learn and thrive once they understand that they have unique learning styles and needs. The kids’ grades go up with their self esteem once they’ve met an older mentor with the same problem but who has gone on to achieve success in college.

When they conceived the idea for Camp Vision, Soutra and Bergeron applied for an alumni grant in 2006. When Bob Baker, director of Continuing Ed saw the proposal, he said, "Whether you get the grant or not, I want to fund this, because I like this idea."

With some additional help from Heather Jasmin in Continuing Ed, Project Eye- to-Eye, the Monadnock Center for Successful Transitions (MCST), and Steve Bigaj (associate dean of Professional Studies) this innovative program was born at KSC.

The Camp has returned to campus each year. It’s also held at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (Geneva, N.Y.), and there are plans to expand it next year to the University of Denver and the University of San Francisco.

Fourteen local kids participated in the Camp this year, and the goal for them is simple: connect the DOTS (Determination, Organization, Talking about their disability and experience, and Self advocacy).

As Soutra explained, "By determination, we want them to realize that they can do this, that they can learn, and that they can be successful. Organization is about their metacognition, how they think - discovering what accommodations would work well for them. One kid might use books on tape, but that might not work for someone else. So we get them thinking about how they organize themselves and how they can learn. Talking is simply discussing their experience and their feelings. This morning, one of the kids was talking about how he hated to leave the classroom and go to another classroom for special help. And all the other kids and counselors could relate to that and share their feelings. So just having an outlet for them to talk about this heavy stuff is important. Self advocacy is the final step: Once they know what they need, and know they deserve it, how do they ask for it?"

"We try to engage them in fun, expressive ways," Soutra explained. "Today we’re working on a project called ‘the Invention,’ where the kids have to come up with inventions that could help them in school. So we’re asking them to think about what gives them the most problems in school: sitting still, spelling, writing - whatever it might be. Then they try to come up with a fun, crazy, creative invention that could help them with that. Afterwards, we can talk to them about what they could actually do. For example, there may not be an automated speller that will spell words for you, but we do have spell check and people we can ask to help us with spelling."

The approach is simple, but very effective: "We’re trying to get these kids to achieve personal success - just feeling good about who they are."