As the 27th Jacob’s Ladder Enrichment Program ended, I knew one thing for certain…it was worth it! Although this year’s location at Christchurch School near Urbanna, Virginia brought challenges of space and scheduling, it demonstrated to all of us how working together reaps many blessings. At our first Chapel Talk, Mr. Hall reminded all of us to stay focused on the culture of Jacob’s Ladder. I had the opportunity to witness how this life-changing program truly helps Climbers reach their potential. A dedicated staff provided love and support to Climbers as they learned self-nurturing life skills, increased their knowledge through rigorous academic classes, and encouraged them to develop perseverance to overcome obstacles along the way.
Each day began with “Chapel Talks” by the RAs. Here, they shared personal stories of strength and resilience about how they worked through difficult challenges to improve a situation or meet a goal. Their powerful words of advice inspired the Climbers to believe in themselves. Three enrichment classes each day provided exposure to lofty learning, critical thinking, and creativity. Climbers were provided with a safe environment, in which to take risks to try new skills and stretch themselves academically. Exposure to the art of debate, creating code, use of logic to solve problems, analyzing literature, and writing books for children, and more, brought many diverse opportunities. Each week brought a new set of academic teachers and the subjects they love to teach.
Afternoons were full of physical education activities, swimming lessons, and clubs. Climbers encouraged each other as new swimmers overcame their fear of water and others met the mathematical challenge of origami. Commitment to daily rehearsals for those participating in the musical, “The Little Mermaid”, brought tremendous rewards as they performed before receptive audiences during two well-attended performances. The Talent Show and Coffee House evenings provided additional opportunities for self-expression. A favorite event of mine during camp was Christmas in July. Since Climbers and staff aren’t together during the holidays, this special celebration of the Christmas story and music was very poignant and reminded us of the faith, which is our anchor. Special hats for all Climbers and staff were decorated for each person by a “Secret Santa” and added to this festive occasion.
It is often said that when God closes a door, He opens a window, and so it was when this opportunity came to accept the position of Jacob’s Ladder’s new Executive Director. The closure followed a 35-year career in education of working with gifted students and serving as an administrator of gifted programs for a large school district. Over a decade of involvement with JL Camp, where I both recommended and visited students, created for me a foundation of love for this life-changing program. Yet, as this window was opened, I wasn’t prepared for how deeply I would be impacted by these incredible Climbers and staff. I was in awe as I learned of all of the pieces and parts that actually made this wonderful program happen thanks to the incredible staff whose dedication make it all possible. My first camp experience as Executive Director brought an overwhelming sense of joy as I watched our group of diverse personalities and talents come together for a united purpose of helping these very smart at-risk students to reach their potential.
Sue Albaugh, ED