Summer Centered: Stephanie Terrell ‘18 Makes Summer Fun Accessible to People With Disabilities
The Gertrude Albert Heller Memorial Grant is funding her internship at Camp Jabberwocky on Martha’s Vineyard.
Every day, Stephanie Terrell ‘18 leads the same tasks as any other summer camp counselor—she wakes up the campers, guides them in activities such as archery or bowling, and sometimes hosts after-dinner social events like dances or talent shows. But the routine at Camp Jabberwocky on Martha’s Vineyard is special.
The residential summer camp offers children and adults with a wide range of developmental and physical disabilities the chance to enjoy summer fun and enrich their lives in a supportive environment that fosters independence and self-determination. At the moment, Terrell is working one-on-one with a camper named Jake, who, like the rest of his fellow campers, lives with a disability and who would not be able to fully participate in camp on his own without Terrell’s care.
Thus, in addition to ordinary chores, Terrell also has to brush Jake’s teeth, feed him, help him use the toilet, and change his clothes, among other things. This close interaction between a camper and a counselor, says Terrell, often leads to long-lasting and meaningful relationships.
“The campers are provided with the opportunity to reach and expand upon their potentials,” she says. “They are supported in their endeavors and activities will be tailored to ensure that diversity is respected and celebrated.”
Among its numerous activities, the camp organizes regular visits to the beach, where all counselors take care to keep their campers hydrated and sunscreened. If their physical disability prevents them from taking a swim with their counselors, the campers can still enjoy the sea by having their counselors hold them in water or carry them in floats. And although each counselor is paired up with a single camper, the collaborative environment guarantees that nobody gets left behind, as Terrell and her colleagues are ready to jump in and help anyone in need.
“This is helpful because, due to the diverse nature of camp, some campers require more one-on-one attention and collaboration is the most productive model for the environment,” she says.
The chemistry major applied for the Gertrude Albert Heller Memorial Grant, an internship fund that encourages students to gain experience working with people with disabilities or neurological disorders, to support her work at the camp. The aspiring doctor wasn’t sure about which specific area of medicine she might be interested in eventually pursuing until she witnessed speech pathologists work with her speech-impaired camper. Thanks to her work at Camp Jabberwocky, Terrell has not only found a way to articulate her own future aspirations, but she has also revealed unexpected parallels between her summer work and her Haverford education.
“I think that my experience at camp has helped me understand how to apply the problem-solving skills that I’ve learned at Haverford to difficult interpersonal situations,” Terrell says. “Working with another person is obviously more difficult than solving a chemistry problem, but the approach is similar—when one way doesn’t work it is necessary to keep thinking of new strategies until one finally works.”
—Katya Konradova '19
"Summer Centered" is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.