Employment at Gwynn Valley: For More Than Education Majors

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.

Every summer our staff consist of both national and international persons. We can have anywhere from a quarter to a third of our staff from other countries. While some may believe that camp is a place for education majors, or outdoor recreation focuses, our staff expand beyond these career paths. Gary, from the summer of 2017, and George, from 2014 and 2016, are both on the medical track.

Gary wrote “I am currently halfway through my second year of Medical School at the University of Sheffield. In the UK, you don’t choose your area of focus until after medical school, but I am very interested in Pediatrics and Neurology. Working at camp has definitely helped develop many of my skills. When working with children, especially young children, your communication skills with them and/or your co-counsellor has to be very good in order to avoid chaos. An entire summer of this will leave you with much stronger communication and interpersonal skills. Working in a team is a key part of GV life and my experiences will definitely be beneficial when working in a hospital treating patients. Being part of the GV family has been an incredible experience for me. They gave me the opportunity to train as a lifeguard which is something I never thought I would do. I made so many lifelong friends and it is a summer I will never forget.”

– Gary Neill, former staff member

George is currently in his 5th year of medical school in Cardiff, Wales, doing a specialist degree in Emergency, Pre-hospital and Immediate Care which he will qualify for in 2020. He is currently doing research in Patient Safety, hoping to publish research within 18 months and come to America to present. George also plays on the Cardiff Medics Football (Soccer) Club. He and his team won the National Associate of Medical Schools Soccer Cup. He says that camp has given him many memories for life, and friendships that cross the globe, while also cherishing the simple joys and the reminder to get back to nature whenever he can. He hopes to one day be back at camp as the doctor.

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.

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.

Growing Up at Gwynn Valley

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.

At Gwynn Valley, we are fortunate to have many multi-generational families. As they become parents, some camper and staff alumni decide to send their own children to camp. Terry and Wanda Hassler, who first worked on our summer Medical Team in 1998, sent all four of their children to Gwynn Valley. Their three daughters – Leah, Madison, and Hayley – have moved from campers to staff and are now pursuing their careers. It’s awe-inspiring for us to learn how the impact of camp stays with our alumni as they move into subsequent phases of life.

Leah, who is now 28 wrote, “I am currently pursuing my Masters in School Leadership at Harvard. After I graduated from college, I joined Teach for America and became really passionate about educational equity. Growing up going to GV really instilled in me that each child has something unique and special to offer, and that when adults provide spaces for children to flourish, they will. After I graduate, I plan on becoming a principal at a turnaround school where I hope to provide my students with the same sense of home that I have always felt at GV.”

Madison, who attended and worked at camp for a total of 16 years writes, “I am currently working as a operations research analyst at the Pentagon. GV was such a special place for me, and became even more so when I came back as a staff member. Serving as Mountainside Head Counselor taught me so many important leadership lessons that I still utilize in my job today. After I graduated from college, I took a year off to live in Australia and was able to lean on many of the friends I’d met at GV during my travels. GV has provided me with so many lifelong friendships, and granted me the opportunity to pursue so many travel experiences.”

Hayley, 23, worked as our Young Leaders Head Counselor last summer. She writes, “I am currently pursuing my Masters in Microbiology at Clemson. Gwynn Valley taught me how to bring fun into everyday life. The FISH philosophies that were instilled in me as a staff member help bring light and perspective into my research all the time. As a masters student, I teach an undergraduate lab, and the lessons I learned at GV have pushed me to make an otherwise difficult subject matter engaging for my students.”

We are so grateful for our summers with the Hasslers, and our team at Gwynn Valley is excited to see what their young and brilliant lives will bring!

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.

New Years in Manchester and Edinburgh

Over New Years, my brother, Jacob, and I took a trip to Manchester, England and Edinburgh, Scotland to meet up with some of our fellow GV staff. We had met up with many of the English/Scottish staff from that summer, along with a few other Americans who made the trip. In Manchester, our party was around 25 people, though in Edinburgh our size shrunk to seven, when we had everyone there. Jacob and I also met up with two staff members who are alumni of camp. Both are teaching elementary aged students now, and doing well. Michael, a head counselor from years back, took Jacob and I on a day trip to see St. Andrews, which is where Prince William and Catherine met in university, and Crail and Elie, both of which are small fishing villages.

Former staff, Jordan Siragusa, honored on Ellen

Jordan Siragusa, a former head counselor here at camp, was recently on Ellen!  She’s a huge fan of Ellen Degeneres and was honored for her amazing work as a first grade teacher at a title I school.  Ninety percent of the student population at Montclaire Elementary School, in Charlotte, NC  are high poverty students.  Jordan does amazing work with these students using her motto of “Be Kind”.  Western Governors University gifted Jordan a full scholarship to get her Master’s degree as well as an additional gift of $10,000.  Jordan has now decided to raise money for her school by matching every dollar donated up to a total of $5,000!  Click here to donate to her cause. She’s an incredible and inspiring teacher and we are so proud of her accomplishments!