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Camp Noah takes students to Sandy Hook

Penn State Berks students, under the guidance of Dr. Jayne Leh, Assistant Professor of Special Education, and Pastor David Hershey, campus minister, are offering support to children affected by the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012 through Camp Noah. The camp runs from July 15–July 19, 2013. The Penn State Berks group will depart on July 13, in order to get acquainted with the community and learn the stories of the families so they can serve the children more effectively.

A total of twenty-seven students from Penn State Berks will travel to Newtown as part of Camp Noah. They will be accompanied by Leh and Hershey, as well as Dr. Brenda Russell, Associate Professor of Psychology; and Erin Johnson, Lecturer in Psychology at Penn State Berks.

Approximately 75 children in first through sixth grades will participate in Camp Noah, a program owned and coordinated on a national basis by Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota. Camp Noah is a week-long day camp for children whose communities have been impacted by disaster. Camps are held in the disaster-affected area in cooperation with local partners. Screened and trained, caring volunteers provide a safe, fun atmosphere for children to tell their stories, grieve their losses, build resiliency skills, and find hope for the future.

According to Leh, Camp Noah is mutually beneficial to the children it serves and Penn State Berks students. She explains that it is a particularly good fit for Berks students enrolled in the college’s Childhood and Early Adolescent Education program and Applied Psychology program. Education majors are able to meet their 80-hour work experience requirement, while psychology majors will meet their internship requirement.

For senior Applied Psychology major Shanik Hidalgo-Nunez of Reading, PA, Camp Noah will give her a chance to volunteer while fulfilling her internship requirement.

“I am happy to help out in some small way,” comments Hidalgo-Nunez, who is hoping to use her degree to work with children after graduation.

Camp curriculum is designed to help the children gain a sense of support and hope as they recover from the trauma they experienced as a result of the mass shooting. Penn State Berks students will help the children recover and progress by processing their loss through art, music, games, songs, and discussion exercises, in a caring and supportive environment.

Leh has participated in Camp Noah since 2006 and she got Penn State Berks students involved two years ago. Last July, eleven students traveled to the area in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania that was affected by the flooding in the fall of 2011. In the summer of 2011, four students joined with the Friedens Lutheran Church’s Camp Noah team from Oley, traveling to aid children in Huntsville, Alabama.

For more information on Penn State Berks students’ involvement in Camp Noah, call Leh at 610-396-6413, or contact her via e-mail at JML53@psu.edu.

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