Working as camp counselor, student finds true passion

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.—Anna Boettcher, a childhood and early education major in Penn State’s College of Education, spent this past summer as a counselor at a camp that serves children with special needs. Variety Club Camp and Developmental Center, located 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia, is a facility that works to build children with physical and developmental disabilities through educational, recreational and leisure activities.

Boettcher said that the camp offers a number of activities for campers to take part in, everything from music to computers to nature.

“This allows the campers to learn and develop new skills that they may not have had before,” said Boettcher, “while still having fun and enjoying their summer at the same time.”

Boettcher was introduced to this camp ten years ago when her brother was a counselor there.

“I decided to start working at this camp in order to give back to the community and volunteer however I could,” said Boettcher, who said she always wanted to be a teacher, but never knew what kind.

“I would’ve never known my true passion without coming to this amazing childcare facility,” said Boettcher. “Because of my love for these children, working with them and seeing them grow, I’m soon pursuing my master’s degree in special education.”

Boettcher said she has numerous stories, but a story about a Down syndrome camper, whom Boettcher has worked with for many years, is special to her.

“I’ve watched him grow and learn new skills that he could not master before,” said Boettcher. “Ever since he was young, we just always communicated by songs and hand games, but now, especially this past summer, we’ve been working on holding conversations and keeping eye contact.”

Boettcher said that this camper’s job coach found him a job in a cafeteria where he is finding a lot of success and showing great improvements in communication.

“When I heard about this recent story, my eyes filled with tears because it showed me that what we worked on this past summer stuck with him, and he was using it in everyday life,” said Boettcher. “I’ve never been so proud.”

Boettcher said that these children have helped her look beyond the disability to see so much more.

“It’s funny to think that I first came to this camp thinking I was going to be the one helping them and changing their lives,” said Boettcher, “but really, in the end, they changed mine.”

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Last Updated October 16, 2013