4-H Camp Counselors Grow with Campers

AMES, Iowa – Each year, hundreds of eager campers, ages 6 to 17, attend camp at the Iowa 4-H Center. From day and overnight camps, leadership development and extreme adventure getaways, to camps for the whole family, there’s a camp designed for every child’s needs and interests.

“Camp gives kids the opportunity to be kids,” said Abbie Parker, program specialist at the Iowa 4-H Center near Madrid. “Campers get to try new things, take healthy risks and make friends, all while under the supervision of caring adults.”

Behind the scenes are the many camp counselors who care for the young campers.

Jackeye Manternach, a high school teacher and 4-H Center volunteer, was a camp counselor for four years. Manternach joined her local 4-H club in fifth grade. She has continued to be involved in 4-H through her work at the center.

“The best part about camp is the relationships built between the staff and the campers,” said Manternach. “We are given the chance to be a positive adult in the kids’ lives and it becomes a connection neither of us forgets. Camp teaches people respect, responsibility and dedication – camp makes people better.”

Iowa 4-H is a youth development program with more than a century of experience fostering positive life skills in Iowa youth. At the Iowa 4-H Center every camper has the opportunity to participate in experiences that strengthen their sense of belonging, independence, generosity and mastery, Parker said.

“When many people think of 4-H, the first things that come to mind are county fairs, livestock, cowboy boots and blue ribbons,” said Rob Larson, 4-H Center camper and staff member. “When I think of 4-H, making new friends, developing lifelong skills and summer camp come to mind.”

Larson was a camper at the 4-H Center for three years and has been a counselor in training (CIT) for two years.

“Being on the camp staff is by far the most rewarding experience of my life,” said Larson. “Words cannot explain the feeling you get inside when you know you have made a difference in a child’s life. Seeing the kids develop and knowing you had something to do with that provides an extra bit of energy when you need it most.”

About the Iowa 4-H Center

The Iowa 4-H Center was founded in 1949 by the Iowa 4-H Foundation. By 1952, the first campers stayed overnight in Elm Village.

The center consists of more than 1,100 acres of woodlands, meadows, wetlands and fields in the heart of the Des Moines River Valley. Outdoor education is an important component of the 4-H program. Faculty and staff of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development create and lead programs year-round at the 4-H Center.  The facilities are available year-round for use by individuals, families, groups or organizations.

The 4-H Center has 360 beds among five villages and is available for anyone to rent anytime. 4-H membership is not required to use the facilities. Staff employed by Iowa State University lead summer camps and seasonal programs in team challenge, outdoor camping, environmental education, shooting sports and recreation.

For more information on the 4-H Center and camps, visit the website at http://www.extension.iastate.edu/4h/center/.