By Sarah Pride
Patrick Henry College
Dry ice and water ripped apart plastic bottles outside of Patrick Henry College’s Founder’s Hall on Wednesday evening, June 11. For the young students attending Strategic Intelligence summer leadership camp, the strange and violent noise formed another data point for their mock criminal investigation. Tom Snyder, 2008 graduate from PHC’s Government major and SI camp organizer, had arranged the week around an analytical mystery, giving his young students a taste of work in the intelligence field.
“One of the coolest things [about spy camp] is that so much seems so real,” grinned Charles Carman, age 17, from Charlotte, NC. “The teachers here are outstanding.”
After SI camp, others of PHC’s highly-qualified faculty and recent alumni are in the process of heading up the other summer offerings—College Prep, Moot Court: National Security, Drama, Debate, Roots of Leadership, and Worldviews in Literature—with plenty of guest lecturers to fill in. Around class time, field trips and hands-on activities fill out a well-rounded experience.
Many campers find their week at Patrick Henry changes them in some way. Rachel Kirk from Memphis, TN was seven years old in 2001 when terrorists attacked the Twin Towers. “I didn’t know the details of September 11 before now,” she shared soberly on the last day of camp.
Other campers speak with enthusiasm of their counselors, who are all PHC students or 2008 grads. They applied for their jobs amidst significant competition in the PHC student body, and are well-qualified for their roles. Tim Snyder, a junior at PHC and brother to Tom Snyder, is serving this summer as Director of Teen Leadership Camps. Under his leadership work Colten Wilson (a junior) as Head Counselor for the men and Dominique Deming (class of 2008) as Head Counselor for the women. Wilson served for a season on the traveling leadership team of TeenPact, a youth organization that teaches the foundations of American government, while Deming is now on her third year of PHC teen camps.
“My job is to equip the other counselors to do theirs,” explains Deming.
Snyder, Wilson, and Deming share a common vision—to impact students’ lives at the same time as giving them a delightful experience and helping them learn useful skills.
“My heart is for the campers,” explains Snyder. “I do my best to ensure that camps retain a spiritual emphasis.”
Wilson agrees: “We want more than just a successful camp. We want students to grow spiritually—both from formal chapels and through leading by example.”
Spiritually and personally, PHC Teen Leadership camps usually enjoy rousing success. Last year, one young man from Germany emailed his counselor, senior Kenny Ly, after camps ended and told him that he had come to know Christ. Almost every camper turned in a comment form full of positive remarks about his or her counselor.
For the counselors, serving in teen camps gives a great summer experience and a chance to apply the ideas they have learned in the classroom. Deming, who just graduated in May from the Political Theory track of the Government major, will be moving to South Carolina after the summer to live with her sister and search for a job. Meanwhile, she says, it has “been refreshing to step back and interact with enthusiastic high schoolers.” She plans to spend a year or two in the world at large before applying to graduate school for political theory. Wilson also agrees that “it’s helpful to put what I’m learning in the classroom to work in practice.”
Everything about Patrick Henry College is centered on the notion that true education consists of enabling individuals to become the adults that God intends. In that way, high-schoolers who attend the College’s summer Teen Leadership Camps find a healthy dose of classroom and hands-on knowledge, chapel and just plain fun. They and their counselors learn and grow, each in their appropriate roles, and all prepare for adulthood together.