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!