Friday, January 23, 2015

Meet the Team: Camp Texlake Retreat Specialist, Katie "PJ" Sweeney

Hi, I’m your new Camp Texlake Retreat Specialist. A little about me—I’ve been a registered Girl Scout for 23 years (10 years as a girl, 13 years and counting as an adult). 

I've earned my Girl Scout Gold and Silver Awards. I was even active in Girl Scouting while in college at Baylor University in Waco where I graduated in 2005 with a BA in Journalism and a minor in Social Work (the first person in my entire family to graduate with a 4-year college degree).

I grew up going to Girl Scout camp and those experiences impacted all aspects of my life. My first paying job was helping in the kitchen at Camp La Jita as a teenager, where I eventually worked my way up to the youngest Assistant Horseback Riding Director the camp had ever hired!

I've held a variety of odd jobs in my career, all of which have in some way helped me prepare to be your Texlake Retreat Specialist. In addition to my camp roles of counselor, horseback riding instructor and, most recently before Texlake, as camp director for Camp Mira Sol, I’ve held a variety of fun jobs in the “outside” world too. 

       When I worked in Communications for SeaWorld San Antonio, I got to travel across the country with the Animal Ambassador Team and variety of exotic animals to promote conservation. I love to tell stories of my adventures. When you come to camp, feel free to ask me what it’s like going through airport security with penguins or about the time a lemur tried to steal my sandwich while we were waiting in a van in Corpus Christi. I also spent eight months in the Disney College Program working at Disney World. I got to see how much hard work, and how many people, it took to run the happiest place on Earth.

                I’m lucky enough to currently live at Camp Texlake with my husband Don (Drummer is his camp name), and our dog, Zoey and cat, Kallie. I really love to cook. Getting in the kitchen and creating something new and unique from different ingredients is magical to me. I’m a total bookworm who also has a strong desire to learn new skills and just generally enjoys doing something I've never done before. I have a passion for traveling and meeting new people. Everyone has a special story and I’m excited to hear about those journeys. I also like collecting cool quotes, whether it’s from a camper or a famous person, I find these tidbits of wisdom incredibly inspiring and fascinating. 

One of my favorite quotes is:
If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse. - Walt Disney

You’re always welcome to follow my adventures at Camp Texlake on Twitter or Instagram (@CamptasticTexas).
Happy Camping,
Katie "PJ" Sweeney

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Gold Girl Scout Spotlight

         This month's featured Gold Girl Scout is Kavya Ramamoorthy who created a                          documentary on Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972. Congratulations                on becoming a Gold Girl Scout, Kavya!

When I was in 8th grade I researched a federal law called Title IX for a Nation History competition. Like many other students today, I did not even know that a law like Title IX existed. By learning about this law and the enormous impact it had on society, my appreciation for the rights and opportunities that I have been given has increased. I want to be an advocate for the law and for the power that it gives students. I also want to encourage girls to pursue higher education in any area, be it in STEM, Liberal Arts or any field of their choosing and to dream big. Today, thanks to laws like Title IX, educational opportunities in our country are available equally to boys and girls. This is not the case in many other countries around the world.

For my Gold Award Project, I created a ten minute documentary on Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 to show how this law has impacted higher education in America. I collaborated with Social Studies teachers at Round Rock ISD to ensure that the documentary covers the TEKS for Title IX and to ensure that the documentary can be used as a supplemental lesson by teachers in the district. I researched Title IX, interviewed experts, used information from my project on Title IX created for the National History Day competition, and gathered information to present. After gathering the information, pictures and video clips, I worked with the technical staff at RRISD to piece together my documentary. My sponsor, Ms. Tina Melcher, who is the lead Social Studies Curriculum Specialist at RRISD, reviewed my status every step of the way. After I had a complete draft version of the video, I sent it for review to various people including Ms. Nita Hornbeck at the American Association of University Women (AAUW); Mr. Brown with RRISD Tech support; and Ms. Melcher, my sponsor. Each of these people helped check the documentary for historical accuracy and clarity. Ms. Melcher helped me in identifying a Social Studies teacher, Mr. Bradley, who did a test run of the documentary with other Social Studies teachers at Westwood High School. This confirmed that he and other teachers will be able to use my documentary in their classrooms. After gathering all the feedback, I made the final revisions to the documentary before submitting it to the school district for them to distribute to teachers district-wide.

From my project, I hope that students will gain awareness about the opportunities they have in higher education today. The documentary can also be used in presentations done by RRISD to promote higher education.

I gained confidence in myself by doing this project. By talking to many influential adults, I learned not to be shy in asking for help. I even got a response from Dr. Bernice Sandler, the Godmother of Title IX. People are willing to help if you ask them. Collaborating with others opens doors to lots of new opportunities. I gained valuable networking skills in this project and have built relationships with organizations like the AAUW.

By teaching about the history of Title IX, I hope to motivate other students to appreciate their opportunities and to empower them to make use of the educational resources that are available today. I also want to show them that the government in our country values education for all.