This summer, I have the privilege of working with some of the most brilliant children that North Carolina and Virginia have to offer. It's my second summer as an RA at a camp called Jacob's Ladder. As the name hints, it's a Christian camp. It was founded in 1992 by a Christian couple, Aubrey and Margie Hall. The Halls had a vision, pretty similar to Jacob's from Genesis. In response to God's call, they started a summer enrichment camp for incredibly gifted at-risk students. Students (referred to as Climbers in the program) begin in the summer after their 4th or 5th grade year, and continue through the summer after their 8th grade year. So, it's a 4- or 5-year summer enrichment experience. The camp is free for these students. And they are so deserving. The average Jacob's Ladder camper doesn't exactly come from the best of circumstances.
At-risk can mean a number of things. Many of the students come from inner city Virginia or the rural backwoods of Northeastern North Carolina. They're brilliant, but they certainly aren't afforded any of the resources that most students get. Their school districts are very poor and the kids suffer because of that. Other Climbers are on the brink of being orphans. Often times, one of their parents (or even both) are incarcerated or suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction. Jacob's Ladder is a God-send, especially for these children. Their summer experience is the one time that they can get away from the stresses and pain of their hurtful lives back home. It gives them a chance to get away and be an actual kid. Man, do I love this camp and what God is doing through it!
To date, we've had students go through the program and go on to schools like UPenn, Harvard, UVA, UofR, and UNC on full scholarships. Jacob's Ladder plays a central part in building up and encouraging these students from an early age. Without the program, many of these students would fall prey to the vicious cycles of poverty, gang violence, and substance abuse that run rampant in many of their families and communities.
I'll share more on my camp experience as the summer progresses. Hopefully, you can find some hope in the reflections of these beautiful young children learning to better the world with the gifts that God has given them.