(Published June 30, 2022)
It’s been a rough couple years for everyone, but especially school-age children. Their formative years have been disrupted, and they are still rebounding from being in school virtually for so long instead of in-person. Socially, they need more support right now to get to where kids their age typically are because of all the time they missed around other children. That’s where CampJCC Mental Health & Behavioral Coordinator Abby Burcham and Inclusion Support Specialists Lizzy Rager and Sterling Zweigel come in.
Abby, Lizzy and Sterling are all trained educators who specialize in managing behavior: Abby has been a special education teacher for 15 years (in Washington Township for 10 of those), Lizzy is a special education instructional assistant working toward her master’s degree in social work, and Sterling works as a Positive Behavior Teacher after having spent time as a fourth and fifth grade teacher and several previous summers as a CampJCC counselor. Abby, Lizzy and Sterling not only utilize their knowledge of behavioral strategies to talk things through with the kids when situations arise, but they also work with the counselors. “Knowing how much experience I have compared to them, [I’m] able to provide them with different examples or ways that could change the outcome of behaviors and teach them how to be proactive with behaviors rather than reactive,” Abby said.
“I Like the Camp Atmosphere”
All three mental health specialists have enjoyed being able to use their skillsets in a non-school setting. “It’s been nice getting to build relationships with the kids and just being in a more carefree setting working with kids has been a nice change,” Lizzy said. “Just getting to enjoy the summer alongside the kids rather than an academic setting has been a nice change of pace.” “[Camp is] a different approach than school,” Sterling added. “At camp it’s more about just having fun and learning from your mistakes, where at school you’re still learning, it’s more about trying to deal with emotions and it’s more structured. I think [the camp approach] is helping me as a teacher as well.”
For Sterling, working at the JCC this summer is especially full-circle. Not only did he grow up attending CampJCC as a camper (“It’s fun seeing how things have changed and how they’re still the same – Shabbat and cookout and everything,”) but it was fellow JCC staff who convinced him to go into the education field after watching him in action as a counselor for years. “Thanks to summers at the J, I realized this is probably what I should do the rest of my life,” Sterling said. While this is Abby’s and Lizzy’s first summer at the Indianapolis JCC, they’ve also loved their experiences thus far. “From the first phone interview, I could tell it’d be a great place to work and it would be good people I’d be working with,” Lizzy said.
Thanks to Glick Philanthropies and the Adams, Bell, Cotlar and Koppel J Funder families for providing this essential support to CampJCC this summer! Visit JCCindy.org/media to read an additional press release about this program.