More than one twist to Misericordia camp

By Mark Guydish

June 19, 2013

DALLAS TWP. — Britney Loucks, 11, and Jaleesa Ross, 10, contorted to the Twister calls of Brittany Thomas, a soon-to be junior at Wyoming Area High School: “Right foot, blue … left hand, yellow.”

Loucks and Ross tumbled to the mat, jumped up and asked to play again — twice — before heading to another activity nearby.

“Fun!” Loucks grinned as she walked across the lawn in front of the Banks Student Center at Misericordia University.

Well, that was part of the idea, Misericordia University Diversity Institute Director Scott Richardson said. But the bigger goal was to give the high school students attending the Institute’s annual Leadership Camp, which started Sunday and ends today, a chance to interact with the younger students visiting for a few hours from the McGlynn and Mineral Springs Learning Centers in Wilkes-Barre.

“I’m trying to add a service component to the camp experience,” Richardson said of the two-hour “fair” for the learning center students, where the youngsters could play Twister, put on sock puppet shows and have their faces painted, among other activities. The high school students attended the camp to learn leadership and inclusion skills, and the fair gave them a chance to practice what they learned.

Thomas said the camp was worth the week of summer vacation it ate up. She participates in Wyoming Area’s “student ambassador” program, a peer-to-peer support program designed to help struggling students deal with issues like bullying or emotional problems.

The diversity camp “gave me a lot of good ideas I can take back to the high school,” Thomas said, sporting a cat face painted on her before the arrival of the learning center students.

The annual camp is funded partly by donations from businesses, including Wal-Mart, Guard Insurance Group Inc. and Olive Garden, as well as supplemental money from the university and donations from college students themselves, Richardson said.

It costs $250 per student, but that covers room and board for five days and four nights on campus, and all the classes and other programs.

Richardson said he appreciates that school district budgets are tight, but she said finding money to send more students is a smart investment.

“When they have a suicide or a violent incident, they call the Diversity Institute and ask us to come, but that’s too late,” he said. The camp helps students recognize and deal with problems before a crisis, and to spread that knowledge to their peers.

On that note, Richardson added, it’s never too early to consider signing up for the next camp — either as sponsor or attendee. “They can call my office, 674-6247.”