Portland State Magazine Fall 2022

link that to their current approach to life and human interaction,” the study reads. “It’s as if a brief but powerful learning experience expanded into something much broader and more significant over the course of time.” “It’s hard to describe if you’ve never been here, but it is my favorite place in the world,” said Susie-Jo Miyanaga ’17, a camp staffer. “I can just be myself here.” Miyanaga started as a counselor in 2016 for her PSU capstone project, unsure about what kind of career she wished to pursue. Recently, she accepted a position as a resource teacher at a school in Portland, where she will provide small group instruction for students with special needs. For her, the camp experience was the tipping point. “I just fell in love. I knew this is what I wanted to do,” she said. For Wollman, following her first camp experience as a counselor in 2009, speaking with others about those with disabilities required patience, as her perception had changed. “There’s no place like camp, where love and vulnerability are the root of the experience,”Wollman said, smiling, as tears welled up. “That one hits me in my heart,” she said after a brief break. “The level of community and unwavering love we feel at camp is addicting.” To learn more about Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp, go to hhkc.org. Like much of the rest of the world, Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp is still recovering from the impact of a pandemic. Camp was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19. Instead, campers received a “camp in a box,” which included a tie-dye T-shirt, art project, list of activities, and supplemental videos. The camp also held live virtual events. In 2021, the camp reopened, but state restrictions limited capacity to 120 campers. The ongoing pandemic also prevented PSU students from returning as counselors. “It was amazing to see how much the [campers] missed that connection and the joy that a counselor brings them,” Cushing said. This year, the camp welcomed 300 campers, still short of the normal capacity due to staffing shortages and the need for caution. The camp is eager to keep raising capacity in coming summers, as the camper wait list alone can reach 200. For that, said Cushing, the PSU partnership is especially crucial. “It is the most amazing partnership I have ever seen between two organizations,” Cushing said. “We want to ensure this camp is here for another 90, 100, 200 years.” RECOVERING FROM COVID The biggest challenge for social workers, who are natural “helpers,” is allowing the campers to fully decide for themselves what they would like to do in a given moment. The pool is a place for campers to swim, play volleyball, or just lounge. It ’s heated and features a waterproof wheelchair and ramp. JUSTIN TUCKER JUSTIN TUCKER JUSTIN TUCKER FALL 2022 // 33