Southwest region teens go wild in the west

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Mikalah Schafer, left, 13, bags up left over cinnamon rolls with the help of Anthony Gott, 18, during the Southwest Regional 4-H camp recently held at Camp Smokey in Roaring River State Park. Kyle Troutman

Barry County 4-H camp teaches teens life skills

The annual Barry County 4-H camp gave area teens some lessons life skills, and it allowed them to give back to their communities.

The camp theme was "The Wild, Wild West," and the activities each day pertained to the overall theme while still providing fun, educational workshops.

Anna Klem, Barry County and Southwest Region youth program assistant, said the camp is important for teens in surrounding communities because it teaches them many different skills that they will need throughout their lives.

"The teen camp usually includes workshops about nutrition, and outdoor activities like fishing, swimming and hiking," she said. "They are never bored, and they are constantly learning."

Jeremy Elliott-Engel, the 4-H youth development specialist agrees.

"The life skills the kids learn here shows how important camps like this are," he said. "The kids will say the best part about the camp is the relationships they have with other campers, but the life skills they learn are equally important."

Elliott-Engel said the campers learn how to maintain and build relationships with other counselors. They also learn public speaking skills and citizenship during the raising and lowering of the flag, personal responsibility during kitchen prep and cleaning and how to care for their environment. The campers also learn about the natural world around them during outdoor activities like exploring and hiking by the river.

Campers said their favorite part of this year's 4-H camp was seeing their friends, building new relationships and watching each other grow up.

Greg Vangunda, 18, of Seneca, has been attending Barry County 4-H camps for 12 years.

"I really enjoy seeing all of my friends every year, and watching all of them grow up," he said. "Next year will be my last year attending the camp, so I want to make it the best yet. I know it will be a cry-fest when we all say goodbye, but that's okay."

Jacob Boeglin, 18, also of Seneca, has been attending the camp for 4 years, and has been a counselor for three years. He said he also really enjoys seeing all of his old friends and meeting new ones.

He also said his favorite part about being a counselor is seeing the younger kids grow up each year, and become counselors themselves.

"It's an unbelievable experience to be a part of the younger kids lives," Boeglin said. "I am hopeful that the kids I council and all of my friends will all lead positive, successful lives when they move on from camp."

Boeglin and Vangunda say that the most important part of the teen camp is their ability to give back to their community while they are there. Each year, the camp provides a community service workshop for the teens. This year, the campers learned how to knit small hats for newborn babies in a Springfield hospital.

"Last year we did a project to service people in Africa, and this year we did something more local," Boeglin said. "Every year, the community service is one of the most rewarding things we can do at camp."

Vangunda said that giving back to the community is one of the most important things they can do at 4-H.

The Teen Wild, Wild West 4-H Camp was held last week at Camp Smokey in the Roaring River State Park. There were 50 children between the ages of 13 and 18 in attendance.

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