Summer is an amazing time at Discovery World. Each weekday, hundreds of elementary and middle school students flock to Milwaukee’s lakefront to take part in our award-winning Summer Camp. These students build battle bots, design their own fashion line, or even create a video game from scratch. But what you may not notice is the team of passionate high school volunteers working hard over their summer break to make our camps successful while also getting their first taste of the workforce.
Discovery World is extremely fortunate to have 25 high school volunteers working alongside our educators throughout the summer. All of our high school volunteers bring their own unique interests and experiences to the table. Working tirelessly, both with our campers and behind the scenes, these volunteers carry out our camps’ curricula and strengthen our mission as an organization.
Not only are these volunteers an invaluable asset to our camps, volunteering is an invaluable experience for these high schoolers. These students are able to volunteer in whichever camp best suits their interests, from fashion to robot design to making spa products. Our volunteers are also encouraged to choose their camp based on vocational aspirations. These camps give our high school volunteers the opportunity to get a foot in the door of the industry they wish to work in, as they are able to work with experts and gain hands-on knowledge.
Learning to Lead
Another important element of Summer Camp volunteerism is the opportunity to be a leader. For many of the volunteers, this is one of the first times they are given the platform to step into and embrace leadership roles. Joel Brennan, Discovery World President and CEO, explained the impact of such leadership on campers.
“Younger kids in our camps get to see kids just a few years older taking charge and performing important roles that make the learning experience richer and deeper,” said Brennan. “When teenagers become the teachers and mentors to younger students, Discovery World strengthens our educational mission and also delivers lessons that go well beyond the classroom.”
Leading Through Experience
Some of our proudest Summer Camp stories involve former campers who return as high school volunteers. Mason Schlax was once a Discovery World camper himself and is now a volunteer within our Bot Battle Engineer and LEGO Robot Engineer camps. Mason was inspired to become a volunteer thanks to the help his own volunteers and teachers gave him. He says, “I wanted to pass my good experiences on to others.” Mason’s experiences as a camper also sparked his interest in engineering and robotics. He is now a vital part of his high school robotics team and wishes to pursue engineering in college.
Paul Mech, Discovery World’s Manager of Curriculum and Program Development, describes Mason as a knowledgeable and resourceful volunteer. He says Mason knows a great deal about how to build and drive robots and also has excellent rapport with campers. He once even reorganized the supply stores simply because he wanted to make it easier for campers to find their supplies. Mech says, “It’s not something where we said ‘hey, can you do this?’ He just saw that need and jumped in.” This type of initiative and leadership is common among our volunteers.
Like Mason, Jamie Wage used to be a camper and is now a volunteer. In addition to her own positive experiences at camp, Jamie wanted to be a volunteer to “help kids learn about what their future careers could possibly be.” Jamie chose to volunteer in our Aquarist camp for a week, not only because the Reiman Aquarium is her favorite exhibit, but also because she is interested in a future career dealing with different species of animals.
Mason and Jamie’s experiences as both campers and volunteers are testaments to our mission, which is to provide educational opportunities for all ages. We provide high school students with the opportunity to explore their interests, develop professional skills, and become great leaders. In turn, these volunteers can make an impact on our campers as teachers, friends, and role models. With our high schoolers’ experiences at Discovery World, we hope to contribute positively to their futures as engineers, zoologists, fashion designers, food connoisseurs, and other endless possibilities that await them.