Camp iRock rocks another year

By Julie Capaldi - Contributing Columnist

Can you believe that when I scheduled my vacation one year ago, it would end up falling during the opening week of Camp iRock? I am not sure what it says about my priorities, but I almost considered canceling my vacation.

I was sitting in the Atlanta airport waiting for my flight, answering work email, and returning phone calls when suddenly, I noticed that my work email stopped. They cut me off. No problem, I still had access to Facebook and our United Way is a prolific Facebook “poster.” You can’t keep ME from getting news on Camp iRock.

I checked my account multiple times a day and nothing. Not one single word about Camp iRock from the School District, the Pickens County YMCA or United Way.

On the last day of my vacation, United Way posted a blog about the first week of Camp iRock and it appeared on my Facebook page. Thank God. Of course, Camp iRock was amazing.

One lesson learned from the pilot year was not to start the literacy instruction on the first day of camp. Therefore, week one of Camp iRock in year two was pure summer camp fun. The children, who came from different schools, formed their camp “families,” the bus schedules were tweaked, and any potential behavior issues were addressed.

The teachers, Call Me Mister interns and Y counselors got to know each other and also bonded. On Monday of Week 2 everyone was ready for reading instruction.

Even though I promised not to drop into camp unannounced, I lasted exactly two days before I just had to go. I found myself at Pickens Elementary, conveniently located on my way to work. I snuck into the building and listened for the children.

I heard nothing. “Oh no, am I at the wrong school?” Finally, Assistant Camp Director Andrew Shipman found me and escorted me to the classrooms.

It was so different than last year — in a good way. The rising second-graders were engrossed in a story being read by their teacher. There was no fidgeting, inattention, talking, or bad behavior.

Then I visited the rising third-graders who were being tested and evaluated by the Call Me Mister intern. His students were riveted on his every word.

Finally, the rising fourth-graders were talking about research. Yes, research. What was most incredible is that the children didn’t even acknowledge that I, a stranger, was even there.

The reports were the same from all three Camp iRock sites. The students were prepared, eager, and learning.

A new component to Camp iRock engages the entire family because research shows that in order for children to be successful, they need support at home. We added two “Family Nights” to the Camp iRock curriculum.

Family Night includes a family meal, singing performances by the campers, a slide show featuring camp activities, a brief presentation about how to select the appropriate book with their child and finally the opportunity to select three age appropriate books to take home.

They also received the most adorable family literacy kit that utilized three “Fly Guy” books. BB&T sponsored the literacy kit project and we can’t thank them enough.

The children were excited and anxious to introduce their teachers and counselors. The parents were so appreciative. Here’s an important lesson we have learned: It’s not that the parents and caregivers don’t want to help their children, often times, they don’t know how.

They, too, are eager to learn and we can’t wait to teach them.

By Julie Capaldi

Contributing Columnist

Julie Capaldi is president of United Way of Pickens County. She can be reached at or 864-850-7094, extension 101.

Julie Capaldi is president of United Way of Pickens County. She can be reached at or 864-850-7094, extension 101.

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