Sentinel Progress

My first day at Camp iRock

Today was my first day at Camp iRock. It was a very important day because the committee from the Reserve at Lake Keowee Foundation made their first site visit to see their investment in action.

We were beyond excited to learn Camp iRock was selected by the Foundation to receive funding for the first time. I was also a wee bit nervous because it was only the second day of the first week of literacy instruction.

It was also our inaugural class of kindergartners. How would they be feeling about all of this? Would they be upset or missing their parents? Would they be wild? Would there even be a new class of younger students? Sometimes you build it and they DON’T come. I was nervous.

I entered Pickens Elementary School 20 minutes before our guests were due. I wanted to make sure everyone was prepared to make our donor’s first Camp iRock experience memorable. What did I hear when I entered the lobby? NOTHING. Not a peep. For a split second I was anxious. No one had told me attendance was low but secretly I had the yucky feeling in the pit of my stomach that it just might be!

Site coordinators, Angela Spearman from the School District and Josh Miller from the YMCA were tucked away in a tiny office texting families of children who were registered but not present this morning. You may not realize it, but there’s a lot of behind -the -scenes work that goes on at Camp iRock. It’s incredibly important to us that the children who need Camp iRock the most, actually attend Camp iRock.

You would think it would be a no brainer. Your child isn’t reading at grade level. Camp iRock can help them. They will love it. DONE

But, it’s a lot more complicated than that. The child may not live with that parent full time in the summer or they may be in foster care. They might NOT want to go. After all, school just ended and for many of these kids, school is NOT easy and NOT fun, so why would you make them go to “school” in the summer? What they don’t realize is how amazingly fun Camp iRock really is with games, field trips, arts and crafts, swimming … AND reading.

I asked, “How’s it going?” and then timidly asked the dreaded question, “How many children are at Camp today?”

“NINETY! Nine zero!” I couldn’t believe it. Then I got the biggest surprise EVER. There are 23 kindergartners at Pickens. I couldn’t wait to go and see them at Camp iRock.

The tour was fantastic. The committee was really impressed and I was so PROUD to show off this labor of love. Camp iRock is a one in a million opportunity for teachers, counselors, Call Me MiSTER interns to dramatically change children’s lives through innovative teaching techniques. I’ve never seen so many children in the Camp iRock classroom and they were riveted on their teachers. They didn’t even notice we were in the room.

Finally, it was time for my first experience with the kindergartners. That classroom was packed with 23 of the cutest little people you have ever seen. They were everywhere. Under tables, in the corners, in small groups and sitting around tables. They were mesmerized with the teacher and hanging off the Call Me MiSTER intern. They were so well behaved and just happy to be there.

I had to laugh because my colleague Jennifer was trying to snap a picture that we could use for social media and this one pint sized girl was directing her classmates so we could get the perfect picture. Obviously, she was used to having her picture taken. She was VERY cute.

I had to laugh. She reminded me of myself at that age … bossy. Thank goodness for my mother because she took that annoying kid who had to control everything, and made her a leader. I still have “control issues” but at least I am NOT BOSSY anymore.

At least I don’t think I am.

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.