Six years ago, when Lauren first went to the Regional Teen Institute, a four-day summer camp in Ripley, she was in sixth grade, “a gawky, awkward middle school kid,” she said. “I was extremely hesitant to go by myself, knowing absolutely not a single person.
“I even recall my dad talking me out of an anxiety attack.”
Six years later, Lauren is now a third-year counselor at the camp, which helps kids become leaders in preventing alcohol and drug abuse and violence.
“The first three years, I kept coming back because the teen counselors I looked up to made a positive influence on my life and I felt welcome,” she said. “For the past three years, I’ve aimed to change lives the way my counselors did for me.”
Jonathan, another camper turned counselor, also said the camp has been a huge positive influence in his life.
“The camp campaigns against many problems that plague youth, like bullying, drug abuse and countless other topics. They do a great job in showing us kids how to deal with these problems correctly and how to ensure that the people around you do the same,” he said. “I could never have gotten where I am now if it weren’t for Teen Institute.”
Jonathan has made a batch of videos involving the Teen Institute that help better explain aspects of the camp and show campers’ appreciation of it.
The camp is held at the Cedar Lakes Conference Center. Campers stay in dorms and have access to the center’s basketball courts, pool, hiking trails and other recreational activities.
It is open to sixth, seventh and eighth graders from Kanawha, Putnam, Boone and Clay counties.
The Teen Institute is funded almost entirely through grants and donations.
No campers pay more than $25 to attend. The camp estimates that 40 to 50 of its 70 campers this summer will be from low income families. A $200 scholarship pays the way for one camper to attend the camp.
To help a child attend the Regional Teen Institute, or another camp like it, look for the donation form in today’s paper and mail your donation to the Gazette Charities Send-A-Child-To-Camp Fund, 1001 Virginia St. E., Charleston W.Va. 25301. To donate online, visit www.wvgazette.com and look for the camp fund logo.
Every penny donated goes to camp scholarships. The Gazette covers all administrative costs.