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White River High students’ senior project continues

Calli Stephens and Alex hang out together  during last summer’s Friendship Circle Camp.    - Brittany Lawrence
Calli Stephens and Alex hang out together during last summer’s Friendship Circle Camp.
— image credit: Brittany Lawrence

White River High School seniors Calli Stephens, Brittany Lawrence and Victoria Marsh have taken the culminating out of culminating project.

In 2008, the summer before their senior year, the three put their heads together and created Friendship Circle Camp for differently-abled children in the White River School District. The 2009 WRHS graduates plan to continue the day camp again with four more sessions spread out over the course of the next two months.

“It was a great experience for me. I learned a lot,” Stephens said. “It changed my life.”

“It made me see people in a different view,” Lawrence said.

White River High School teacher Dianne Campbell honored the three students during the White River School Board’s June 10 meeting. In a night when the senior, or culminating, project was scheduled for revamping, Campbell pointed out the summer camp was a bright spot and “what’s really great about the senior project.”

“They are just awe-inspiring to me,” Campbell said. “They chose something they care about truly.”

As Campbell’s psychology students, she placed the three in White River’s Lighthouse Program, a special needs classroom at Elk Ridge Elementary School, for their field experience. The girls were so taken with the students and their responsibilities, they brainstormed the summer camp to not only meet their senior project community service need, but to meet the needs of the students and their families. It also fits into two of the three’s plans for future study. Stephens and Lawrence plan to study clinical psychology at college in Tacoma in the fall. Marsh is taking one year away from Washington State University to fulfill her duties as an FFA state officer.

Friendship Circle Camp, they explained to the school board, helps kids retain what they’ve learned over the summer and provides a social connection for the students as well. It also provides families with respite.

Between six and 10 students attended the camp, which is offered four times during the two-month summer period. Last year, the camp took place at the Buckley Youth Activity Center, but the girls are looking for a larger facility for this year’s camp. The girls provide art projects like making stained glass and painting T-shirts and molding clay to help students continue to develop their motor skills. The girls also encourage students to write in daily journals to help with retention of other school subjects like writing, spelling and grammar, all free of charge.

“It was good experience for them during the summer when they don’t get to see each other,” Lawrence said.

Lighthouse Program teacher Kim Elliott-Voelker, who helped the girls with the project, said it’s been a fabulous experience for all those involved. The students say it’s Elliott-Voelker who makes the program work.

“She is the woman behind it all,” Lawrence noted. “She provided all of the supplies for the camp, found a place for the camp to take place and oversees the whole camp. She is truly amazing and dedicated to this camp.”

When the camp starts again this summer, Stephens, Lawrence and Marsh plan to be joined by other students who will be working on their senior project. So far, about four or five White River High juniors are on board, with five more lined up to volunteer.

“A lot of people want to help out this year, which is great,” Lawrence said. “Just since last year, the camp has grown tremendously.”

As they prepare to leave for college, they hope the program continues each year.

“We want other kids to see those kids like we do,” Lawrence said. “They’re inspirational.”

To comment on this story, view it online at www.courierherald.com. Reach Brenda Sexton at bsexton@courierherald.com or 360-802-8206.

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