When you work at an institution of higher learning it’s not unusual for people to ask the question, “It’s summer and there are no students here, so what do you do?” At Chestnut Hill College, that answer often comes down to two words: summer camps.
“Every year we bring in about six to eight groups that range in age and areas of interest,” says Drew Westveer, director of event planning. “And most of them have come back year after year which in my business, means we’re doing it right.”
According to Westveer, the high level of loyalty among returning camps stems from more than just the facilities CHC offers. It’s about relationships, which sit at the heart of the College’s mission.
One of these relationships was formed a few years ago with the US Sports NIKE Tennis Camp, which is organized by Jarrett Chirico and Josh Cohen, of the Chirico Cohen Tennis Academy at Green Valley Country Club. Both Chirico and Cohen are former ATP tour professionals. Cohen currently is the head coach of the Philadelphia Freedoms of World Team Tennis.
“The beauty of this camp is that we partner with Green Valley year 'round,” says Westveer. “They bring their camp to CHC in the summer, and in the winter, our athletes are able to go there and use their indoor courts and top-level facilities, which enables year 'round training and conditioning.”
The same goes for the Quest Sports Travel summer camp, which is a soccer camp that comes in every year from New York. The camp requires facilities that CHC alone doesn’t have, but thanks to the partnership with Plymouth Whitemarsh, campers are able to use the fields at the high school as part of their camp experience.
Another group which has returned year after year, is the annual leadership retreat of students from St. Rose High School in New Jersey. The students take part in a three-day retreat organized by the outside company LeadU, which strives to creatively educate and actively empower students to find the leader within themselves.
While Westveer is the main person in charge of organizing the summer camps every year, he emphasizes that it “takes a village." From Dining Services to Residence Life to Athletics, many of the College’s offices help ensure the campers have a successful and worthwhile experience.
“People always say they love us and they love the way they are treated,” says Westveer. “They feel taken care of and that’s why they want to come back.”
Two Camps, One Amazing Global Experience
Continuing in a theme of partnership and relationships, CHC also hosts Global Education Motivators (GEM) for educational summer fun. This year, GEM, in partnership with the Foreign Language School (FLS) housed on campus, offered two camps that rolled into one, Camp FITI and Camp Happiness.
“Camp Happiness dealt with the importance of being happy in a changing world,” says Wayne Jacoby, president and co-founder of GEM. “It involved games, field trips and classroom fun. The campers learned about the International Day of Happiness and that countries are now ranked globally related to happiness rather than economics. In order to determine this, the campers looked at happiness in nature, art, social settings and internationally through the United Nations.”
At the end of the second week of the camp, participants were invited to the United Nations as VIPS to take part in the annual Nelson Mandela Day. Through this activity, the campers learned how Nelson Mandela overcame many struggles in his life and yet moved forward focused on peace and not retribution for his 27 years of imprisonment.
During the third week of camp Camp Happiness transitioned into Camp FITI, where participants learned how to live together in an interdependent world. Through the lens of the local community, Camp FITI looked at the world of Philadelphia during the American Revolution and the movement from Independence to Interdependence.
“Every day was a field trip,” says Jacoby of the final week of GEM’s camp series. “The campers spent several days learning about Judge James Wilson, founding father and signer of the Constitution from the state of Pennsylvania, and learned about his transition from living in 13 separate worlds into one. His perspective was one that enlightened the campers, who took that perspective with them to the UN on the last day for an open discussion on an interdependent world.”
—Marilee Gallagher '14