By Jayme Dale Mallindine, Assistant Director
On my first trip back home after my first summer working at 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy I uncovered my mother’s secret identity: Cherub. Cherub was my mother’s camp name from a summer camp she worked at for 9 years. I immediately was struck by the passion she still had in her voice about a place she had worked at 40 years ago, and also surprised. I had no idea my mom was such an active leader in the camp community, much less that her experience as a camp counselor impacted her life so deeply. Who was this Cherub? And why did she mean so much to my mother?
My mother followed a path that camp directors dream about for our campers. She was a camper for several years before becoming a Counselor-in-Training, followed by becoming a general counselor, then a waterfront specialist and then, finally, she joined leadership as the waterfront director. There were all the usual, practical reasons for why she stayed so long. She was studying in college to become a Physical Education teacher, and working at a summer camp gave her the skills and the resume bullet points she needed to get ahead in her career.
But “practical” is only half the story. There were also all the emotional reasons. Camp was a place where she could be herself while learning about the person she was growing into. She leaned into her love of water there, and I’d like to believe that this love was the seed that blossomed into the scuba diving shop she owned as an adult. She learned how to be brave enough to listen as well as to speak, and she made close friends that are still meaningful to her years later.
Then there is the music. My mother, usually a shy, introverted kid, blossomed at camp into a courageous and brave songleader who belted out the campfire classics with a strong alto voice. When I pushed deeper about what made her step into the spotlight, she painted me a picture of a camp that was divided by socio-economic and racial lines. This was the 60s, and these were kids from the suburbs and the inner city of Chicago, kids who were learning to adjust to the changing demographics of their schools, communities, and neighborhoods. The campers argued about everything, from rooming assignments to meal seating arrangements, but “music was the thing that brought people together, so that’s where I wanted to be.” My mother knew that gathering around something they all loved was a way for people to connect. The music wasn’t a gateway to sameness, but a way for very different people to appreciate each other so they could live together harmoniously.
When I think about my first summer at Sci-Tech, I realize my mother’s insight is also my own. Only instead of music, Sci-Tech has science and technology. We all come from different walks of life, and even different states and countries, but the thing that binds our quirky community together is our love of STEM (and steakwiches, of course). Our shared passion for STEM is a bridge, a connection between campers that may not have met or socialized outside of camp otherwise.
While camping looks different now than it did in the 60s, it’s just as magical as ever. Sci-Tech inspires me. I am filled with hope about what the future of STEM could look like, and about the role Sci-Tech can play in getting there. I truly believe that STEM at its best has the potential to bring people together, and the proof is in the community we’ve formed at 6 Points Sci-Tech. There are already such beautiful bonds and connections being made there, and it’s only been five years! Imagine where we’ll be in ten!
My love of camp is something I feel deep in my bones, or maybe I should say deep in my roots, since camping is apparently a part of my family tree. The lab instruments we use at Sci-Tech may be a little different than Cherub’s guitar, but the reason I want to play with them is similar. STEM is the thing that brings people together, so that’s where I want to be.