A Stepping Stone to Amazing Things

Beyond the Summer: Gwynn Valley Staff Updates is a series of blog posts to help share the stories of our amazing staff when they’re not here at Gwynn Valley. This blog celebrates the professional and personal successes of our staff and tells the stories of the journeys along the way. In some cases, their time at Gwynn Valley sets the path, sending our staff on travels to visit places they wouldn’t have had the connection or courage to visit before or on career paths they didn’t yet know were their calling. In other cases, the experience as a Gwynn Valley staff member offers enrichment, helping hone their teamwork and communication skills as they move on to a predetermined field. For all staff, Gwynn Valley is a special place and we want to celebrate the stories of the exceptional people who make the summer experience possible for our campers.

By Chayil Johnson

“My name is Chayil A. Johnson. I attended Gwynn Valley Camp during the summers of 2016 and 2017. I was first hired as a cook when I was 19, after finishing my sophomore year of culinary / entrepreneurship school at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, NC. I was then rehired for my second summer in 2017 as a shift manager in the kitchen. My time at Gwynn Valley gave me more than I could have ever asked for. It helped me to increase my communication skills, further developed my work ethic and ability to lead, while also strengthening my ability to efficiently connect and collaborate with my peers (especially those that are different than myself).

Since my time at GV, I have graduated Johnson & Wales with my associates in Culinary arts and my Bachelors in Food service Entrepreneurship. I started working at a local Charlotte restaurant, The Asbury, right after I graduated in February of 2018. I started as a line cook, worked my way up to a lead-line cook in 4 months, and as of November of 2018, have been promoted to sous-chef. Along with my kitchen job, I am also a board member of a local, Charlotte non-profit organization called “Faith, Hope, and Love”, where for the last 4 years, I have assisted in the mentorship and after-school tutoring help of inner-city Charlotte youth. 

I can thank GV for a lot of my success. GV gave me tools that will continue to help me in the journey of my career to eventually become a culinary educator for youth. GV has connected me with so many wonderful people that will be friends for life. I can’t thank Gwynn Valley, the GV year round team, and the larger GV community for the people I’ve been introduced to, the principles that have been instilled in me, and the ability to always look for the fun, innocence, and love in any aspect of work I will ever be in. Who knows, GV may have not have seen the last of me.”

To read more stories about our staff, go to the Staff Updates page. If you have a story to share, please email katie@gwynnvalley.com.

International Travels

Beyond the Summer: Gwynn Valley Staff Updates is a series of blog posts to help share the stories of our amazing staff when they’re not here at Gwynn Valley. This blog celebrates the professional and personal successes of our staff and tells the stories of the journeys along the way. In some cases, their time at Gwynn Valley sets the path, sending our staff on travels to visit places they wouldn’t have had the connection or courage to visit before or on career paths they didn’t yet know were their calling. In other cases, the experience as a Gwynn Valley staff member offers enrichment, helping hone their teamwork and communication skills as they move on to a predetermined field. For all staff, Gwynn Valley is a special place and we want to celebrate the stories of the exceptional people who make the summer experience possible for our campers.

While most of our summer staff at Gwynn Valley are American, many of our staff members, both international and American, will take time and travel after camp. These travels can range from going to the beach with fellow staff member to going across the country to see landmarks like the Grand Canyon, or to visit California, or New York. Sometimes these travels can be for short periods of time, but often they are for more extended trips.

One staff member is currently working in Italy as an au pair. She served as one of our Young Leader counselors for the past two summers. “I am currently living in Imperia, Italy working as an au pair for a beautiful family along the coast. I watch and nanny two little girls, a four year old and a one year old. I’ve been diving into culinary arts as well as music and visual arts- and simply walking around taking in all the architecture (and eating pasta everyday). My time as a counselor at Gwynn Valley allowed me the window into what it looks like to travel the world alone and even with friends. I didn’t know it was a possible reality until I saw friends at camp living out their goals of traveling as well.  Camp taught me just how capable I am, and can be! With the opening of this opportunity I definitely don’t plan on standing still any time soon. There’s too much to do! I’m taking it one day at a time and reminding myself to give thanks in abundance.” – Shelby

Another staff member is working in Costa Rica. She spent seven years as a camper at Gwynn Valley, and served as a staff member for four years. During the summer of 2018 she worked as the Riverside Logistics person, where she organized the RS trips, participated in the adventures (climbing, canoeing, and backpacking). In this role, Yacova served as a leader making sure all campers and fellow staff had an enjoyable experience. She wrote me about her current time in Costa Rica:

“Within the past few months, I have had the opportunity to work and live in the community of San Luis, Costa Rica. I am currently working as a Resident Naturalist at EcoLodge San Luis, a research, education, and tourist facility run by The University of Georgia. On the day-to-day, I lead tours and talks on tropical ecology, sustainability, and the local flora and fauna of this part of Costa Rica. Additionally, I am a part of social sustainability research and have spearheaded a literacy initiative with the local elementary schools. I have been SO thankful to have the experiences, values, and connections from GV as a foundation for my time here in Costa Rica. I find myself sharing stories of summers in the Blue Ridge mountains; feeling nostalgic for all that Gwynn Valley has provided for my life: songs of simple joys, an overall sense of mindfulness, and a love and appreciation for the natural world.” – Yacova

We are so happy for our staff members to explore the world and are able to share their time at camp with the people they meet, and are able to call upon their experiences, and memories at camp in their current adventures. We are excited to share what our staff are currently doing, did, and plan on doing in the future.

To read more stories about our staff, go to the Staff Updates page. If you have a story to share, please email katie@gwynnvalley.com.