For 10 weeks this summer, Taylor Ward worked with children at a day camp hosted by her congregation, Lee Heights Community Church, in Cleveland, Ohio. Ward, a 19-year-old sophomore at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pa., was participating in the MCC U.S. Summer Service program, a short-term leadership development program for young adult constituents from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
The day camp exists to address several issues that impact young people in the community, including unstable family structures and academic challenges. On a daily basis, Ward led the children in outdoor games, went with them on field trips and helped them with academics such as reading, math and music.
Ward was also assigned to lead devotions during camp, though she admits she wasn’t initially very excited about the idea. “I was shocked to discover that through sharing these Bible stories with the children, I was applying them to my own life,” reflected Ward. “I became more enthusiastic about the stories I was telling, and the children became more excited to hear them and tell me what they learned.”
In addition to the practical lessons she taught, Ward enjoyed modeling to the children true friendship and what healthy relationships look like with the two other female staff.
Her time working with the children also enabled her to renew an attitude of optimism as she witnessed their wonder at new experiences. “I began to appreciate the world around me, seeing the good that was occurring rather than just focusing on the many bad events that were occurring,” she said.
According to Kimberly Mack, administrator for the day camp, Ward was a valuable part of their team. “Taylor’s leadership skills were an asset to the program,” she said. “I was never in doubt the campers were in fine hands, and I didn’t have to be on constant watch. Taylor was not afraid to think outside of the box in order to gain the confidence or cooperation of one of the campers.”
In particular, Mack points to the camp musical, which was in jeopardy of not being ready a week and half before the deadline. “Taylor, together with another staff member, rallied the campers to learn their parts, helped choreograph three of the songs, staged the production and ran rehearsals,” she said. “Taylor did this without hurting anyone’s feelings, lifting the self-esteem of several campers.”
Both Mack and Ward speak highly of the Summer Service program. “It is an opportunity for young adults to gain work experience, develop leadership skills and help establish direction for young adults,” said Mack.
Ward added, “I believe that the Summer Service program is great for young adults, because not only does it provide funding, but it shows that there is an organization that is supporting you.”
Ward was one of four 2013 Summer Service program participants in the Great Lakes region. The other participants included Hafa Obedi and Bikash Biswa from Living Water Community Church in Chicago, Ill., and Luz Varela from North Goshen Mennonite Church in Goshen, Ind.