Returning Staff – Connecting Camp and Careers


We spend a lot of the off-season reading applications and interviewing prospective candidates. Finding folks who are passionate about nurturing and teaching children in the outdoors is one of the most important things we do. And one of the most exciting parts of this work for our year-round staff is getting to hear from our returning staff! Getting to hear their updates on exciting classes taken in university, a new job they’ve recently accepted, or insightful reflections upon past summer experiences is always a highlight of my off-season work. I particularly enjoy when I can see similarities in the roles that staff take on at camp and the roles or educational opportunities they take on outside of this space. That is a similarity that all three of the people you’ll see below (and in a few months time, who you’ll see here at GV) share.

George Doubleday

This upcoming summer will be George’s third year at GV. He hails from the Isle of Arran in Scotland and will be working as our Older Programs Logistician this summer. Watch out for George coming to a Western NC river near you! What drew George to GV was a desire to “experience a different country and meet new people and learn from them. My first summer at GV was an incredibly rewarding experience and my time as an adventure staff member and counselor helped to shape my aspirations going forward.” 

When George first came to camp he was pursuing his BA in Adventure Tourism Management. His background and experience have enriched our Adventure programs whilst also providing George the opportunity to put theory into practice. As George put it: “working at camp has allowed me to develop further as an outdoor instructor through the adventure staff training provided. Getting to work with the mountainside programme enabled me to help run mini adventures, training days, and multi-day adventures for camper groups (in white water paddling). This dynamic experience shapes my efforts today as I am fortunate to currently be working as an outdoor education instructor at a New Zealand camp.” Many of our alumni will fondly remember Andy Savage, who manages the camp where George is currently working: YMCA Camp Raukawa. The Gwynn Valley connection is truly global in scale!

“There is a lot to love at camp. I appreciate the international days, adventures, the beautiful environment, and the amazing food. Most of all, I value the camp community that thrives from all the people who come from different backgrounds.”

Us too, George, us too!

Ashlyn Pierce

We are privileged to have had Ashlyn as a member of our Kitchen team in the Gwynn Valley Kitchen last summer. Like many of our Kitchen Leadership in recent years, Ashlyn attended Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte and recently completed her degree in Culinary Arts (congrats, Ashlyn!).

Anyone who has worked in the Gwynn Valley Kitchen can attest to how much hard work goes into each and every meal. The food served in our Dining Hall is a labor of passion and love. Working in such a fast-paced, physical, and yes HOT work environment affords no small amount of opportunities for growth. Commenting on some of the different work and personal skills she acquired last summer, Ashlyn pointed to “cooking for a higher volume of people, using fresh farm-to-table ingredients, becoming more skilled in the specialty foods, and how to become a better leader. Using these as a baseline of skill sets for this summer, and any other kitchen job is a good starting point to get on the right path and to lead others the right way as well.” 

It should come as no surprise to learn that one of Ashlyn’s greatest life goals is to own a bed and breakfast that uses farm-to-table ingredients and promotes sustainable practices. With this goal in mind, Gwynn Valley seems like a natural fit for Ashlyn to learn new skills. Considering all the delicious morsels Ashlyn has served up this past summer, she can count on me to be booking my stay on day one!

“I was really interested in working at GV last summer for my internship through school. Having had an awesome experience of working last summer, I knew I couldn’t miss this year. I was drawn back towards camp again this summer solely because of the friendships and community/family that GV has to offer. You truly feel welcomed to camp by everyone.”

Lucy Lehecka

Lucy initially found GV because of our farm program. With a BS in Plant and Soil Science from Chico State University, Lucy described the farm as “aligning with my educational background and my passion for food and the power that comes in getting your hands in soil.” Although she didn’t end up working on our farm last year, Lucy spent plenty of time getting her hands dirty by stepping into the role of our Camping Skills and Nature Program Leader at the beginning of the summer and moving into our Riverside program as a Logistician for RS3! We’re excited to have Lucy join us for a full summer on Riverside in 2023.

“Although I love the farm program and Main Camp, I decided to come back to camp this summer for the Riverside program. Working in the older adventure programs last summer pushed me and inspired me in completely different ways than I could have ever imagined. I found so much fulfillment and joy watching the youth push themselves, work together, and achieve a sense of accomplishment and confidence within themselves and their peers when put in challenging situations. It was a beautiful experience to witness and help foster them in their growth.”

Lucy has an enviable job working with the Pacific States Fisheries Commission on the Feather River, helping to protect the Chinook Salmon. She informed me that some of her paddling skills she developed this past summer on Riverside have been useful for all the days she’s been spending on the river. Some of the other skills that Lucy wanted to develop through camp were skills in “recreation, leadership, and how to deliver knowledge in a digestible way for youth.” She definitely had an opportunity to hone these skills and was surprised to develop in ones she hadn’t identified until she got here. Namely a skillset in promoting “acceptance, community, and above all else love.” Through working at camp, Lucy, “gained friends from all over the world with new ideas and different approaches to teaching and communicating with the youth and our peers. The people and community built at Gwynn Valley truly shows you what it is to work hard, play hard, and support one another in whatever you’re interested in. From learning from one another and enjoying the beautiful simplicities of life.”

We’re so excited to get to share so many moments with these folks and oh-so-many more in just a few short months! Be sure to stay tuned to the Gwynn Valley Instagram account to see some of the fantastic staff we’ll have joining us this upcoming summer.