The idea of having an annual summer-time youth leadership camp sponsored by the NAD was first auspiciously broached in June 1968 when Gary Olsen and Frank Turk were driving from his home in Indianapolis to the Missouri School for the Deaf in Fulton.
As a fervent youth-focused team, Olsen and Turk were two of those typical partners who would talk about the possibility of doing something bold someday—anything regardless of the size for our young deaf people. Most of our highly successful programs, most notably the YLC, were launched without a penny in the budget.
Yes, they started many highly profitable and productive activities with cool budget figures of $0.00! Of course, in some absolute cases, they had to use whatever they found in the normally empty pockets of their pants. They ignited their dreams the moment they surfaced, fueled by passion, persuasion, creativity, self-sacrificial ventures and, most appreciatively, the always-supportive multigenerational Deaf America. Simply stated, it was the job that they were virtually born to do–with love.
Youth Leadership Camp Alumni Foundation was established to set up an endowment to continue their efforts and to promote such dreams for our deaf youth.
On the road to Fulton in 1968, Olsen asked if Turk had something special in mind for the Jr. NAD program in the forthcoming academic year.
Turk’s prompt answer was: “Lately, I have been thinking about the possibility of a summer youth-leadership training camp.”
We immediately agreed that the week-long 1968 national Jr. NAD Convention, that had just ended, was a success way above and beyond expectations. Unfortunately, it was actually not long enough to achieve long-range results, both individually and collectively. At least four weeks would be required for the young people to successfully realize and utilize their true potential through continuous exposure to and partnership with supportive adult role models from all walks of life.
The primary purpose of YLC is to operate as a virtual “minor-league baseball system,” equipping young people and adults with skills that help them achieve strong self-esteem, a sense of responsibility, ability to get along with their peers as well as being supportive towards others around them, and focus on the future as positive and productive citizens and leaders of their respective communities—leaders who eventually become a movement in our Deaf America.
Olsen and his wife, Edna, got married and immediately began their teaching careers and became Jr. NAD sponsors at Indiana School for the Deaf in Indianapolis. They rented an upper-level apartment in a cottage-style house five blocks west of the school: 4337 Carrollton Avenue.
Development of a whole camper is essential, and each camper has unique interests, needs, and abilities to be put to leadership use. Camper’s positive sense of self is critical for school achievement and success throughout life. Their success depends on cooperative partnership among campers, family, school, and community.
Turk and Olsen believed that literacy skills through participation in The Daily Drum program were fundamental to success of camper’s leadership. They also believed that exposure to and experience with Deaf culture will enrich the lives of campers, their families, and people from all WALKS OF LIFE.
During Gallaudet’s 1969 spring break, we invited prominent youth-conscious deaf and hearing people to join us at a 44-acre lakefront property: Pine Lake Camp in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, a just-established basketball facility owned by a Deaf man, Bill Schyman, who was then a head coach of the varsity sport at Gallaudet. The purpose of the weekend gathering was to discuss the feasibility of establishing an annual Youth Leadership Camp.
Dr. Jake Arcanin, professional at NTID
Katherine Corbett, a student at Gallaudet and national Jr. NAD treasurer,
Dr. Victor Galloway, professional at NTID
John Kubis, professional at NTID
Alfred Lamb, Superintendent of the Indiana School for the Deaf, on behalf of the CEASD (Council of Educational Administrators Serving the Deaf).
Gary Olsen representing NAD
Mary Jane Rhodes, a mother of a deaf child from Indiana
Dr. Larry Stewart, professional at NTID
Frank Turk, representing Dr. Leonard M. Elstad, President of then Gallaudet College.
Throughout the weekend, even before the first day’s collective meeting, the group was unanimously in favor of the plan to have the NAD’s Youth Leadership Camp. All of the meetings were highly positive and productive.
NTID’s Kubis said: “Only educated, self-disciplined and civil deaf or hearing adults who obviously believe in the young deaf children can make a difference in their lives. The YLC folks in partnership with Junior NAD advisors and selected community role models would be an ideal team to achieve this goal.”
Consequently, the site of the first-ever NAD’s Youth Leadership Camp (YLC), July 27—August 23, 1969, was petite Pine Lake, isolated in the quietude of woodsy East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, with Olsen as its director. Linda Hatrak (Cundy) served as his executive secretary.
The campers had as their daily newsletter, The Daily Drum, which they published with great delight and to which they devoted hours and hours of their free time under the capable guidance of Agnes Padden, Associate Professor of English at Gallaudet. The publication work was a major part of the evening program.
8:30 a.m.—Social Science Class
10:30 a.m.—Language Arts Class
1:00 p.m.—Group Dynamics
2:30 p.m.—Recreation or Projects
7:00 p.m.—Fireside Topic
8:30 p.m.—“Bull Sessions”
Briefly stated, the YLC as it exists today—50 years later–was established in response to the NAD’s call for leadership in the areas that affect and serve Deaf people’s birthright of independent living and self-determination. The primary mission then as well as today is to motivate young people to explore their true potential as the persons that they are meant to be—on their own.
The YLC as an organization functions basically as a minor league “farm system,” nurturing and refining future leaders for NAD’s affiliated state associations as well as serving as the school’s “textbook helpers” in its fourth “R” area of education: resourcefulness (extracurricular programs). The YLC activities emphasize the whole student concept—practical educational activities that offer opportunities to develop the social, physical, intellectual, communicative, and emotional (SPICE) skills conducive to mastery of the “tools of life.”
The YLC remains a success because of the 50 years of irrevocable loyalty among those dedicated alumni and supporters who are committed to the philosophy of multigenerational leadership and engagement. They want incoming generations to have every opportunity to learn and recognize that they play a vitally important role in our effort to make a greater Deaf America and that we wholeheartedly encourage their courage and confidence to become who they are.
NAD’s inaugural Youth Leadership Camp took place, July 27—August 23, 1969, at Pine Lake Lodge in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
The pioneering campers attending the four-week program were:
Isaac Abenchuchan and Richard Stumbo from California;
Danny Arble and Cheryl Boyd, Pennsylvania;
Mary Arrington and Keith Sibley, Texas;
Mary Barbiere and Elissa Olsen, Wisconsin;
Nancy Berg, Minnesota;
Gerri Born and James Wonder, Washington State;
Peggy Braun, South Dakota;
Virginia Colson and Victoria Reilly, Maine;
Darrel Corse, Cynthia Egger, Lori Reigle, and Robert Schifbauer, Nebraska;
David Curry, Rochester, N.Y.;
Dana Curtis, Rome, N.Y.;
Ruth Freeman, Virginia;
Max Gallimore, Florida;
Jim Gibbs, North Carolina;
Sam Hargis, Tennessee;
Kay Hatrak, Marla Hatrak, Ronnie Rhodes and Leithia Summerlin, Indiana;
Paul Johnston, Oregon;
Laurie Lent, Paul Matovich, Carol Padden, and Dennise Scott, Maryland;
Ric-Olin Lyles, Louisiana;
Lawson McNally and Therese Pohl, Michigan;
Donnette Reins, Idaho;
Phillip Schuackle, James Vail and Suzanne Woodrum, Iowa;
Cyndra Spencer, Missouri;
Stephen Weiner from Fanwood, N.Y., and
Frank W. Turk, Washington, D.C.
Directed by Gary W. Olsen, then a teacher at ISD, the camp staff was made up largely of college students from all parts of the country who demonstrated the highest qualities of character, leadership, and scholarship, namely,
Linda Hatrak, Indiana, camp secretary;
Roger Claussen, Arizona, head cook;
Lily Miller, California, counselor;
Gene Duve, Texas, counselor;
John Yeh, Washington, D.C., counselor; and
Kitty Baldridge and Daphne Hatrak, both of Indiana, counselors and interpreters.
Donald and Agnes Padden of Gallaudet College rounded out the staff, serving as recreation director and publications director respectively, the latter also doubling as the camp’s “Clara Barton.”
At a 1970 meeting of the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School’s Parent-Teacher Association in Washington, D.C., Frank Turk shared his vision:
SDSD Student Attends Youth Leadership Camp
This report is reprinted from the October 1969 issue of The Rushmore Beacon
By Peggy Braun, 13, 1969 camper
South Dakota School for the Deaf
On July 27, I flew to Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania with a Minnesota girl named Nancy Berg to attend the Youth Leadership Camp, in session to August 24.
It is the first leadership camp of its kind in the world. Gary Olsen, who is an academic teacher at the Indiana School for the Deaf, served as the Camp Director. Frank Turk, who is the National Director of Jr. NAD and Dean of Boys at Gallaudet College’s Preparatory Department, was there, too. They co-founded the camp and both of them are deaf.
They made it an outstanding program and were very successful encouraging us to become the leaders that we never thought we could be. The leadership activities that they used helped us to learn a lot about ourselves. It was a great opportunity to have many outstanding campers and deaf role models from different states. We exchanged a lot of ideas and worked together to improve our self-esteem.
There were 43 campers from 22 states and four of them were hearing teenagers. We shared our individual skills and we enjoyed doing this very much because we were more anxious to learn from each other. This enabled us to quickly feel that we could do it because we all were of the same age. This encouraged us to become “can do” people. We were encouraged to always do more and more.
Everyday we got up at 6:30 and exercised for ten minutes. We had classes, given by great deaf leaders and some great hearing people. They gave us helpful advice; and they impressed us a lot. They made us want to do more and more. We also had recreational activities such as swimming, exciting games, and hiking in the afternoon. We were taught how to perform as better leaders in all of those activities. It was a lot of work, not mere play. We had highly educational assemblies in the evening. During all of the four weeks we had captioned-film sessions, group discussions and individual or group tasks for the banquet. We also went on several educational field trips, all of them very profitable because we do not learn many of those things in a classroom.
The first week-end we went to New York City, which was a very interesting place especially the famous buildings and people. While in the area, we went to New York School for the Deaf in nearby White Plains NY to watch Deaf America’s track and field team members work out in preparation for the World Olympic Games in Finland. I met one student who was from SDSD, Terry Lundborg, a USA team competitor. We chatted for a short time and I wished him good luck for his competition in Finland. We traveled back to camp after that and discussed the subject of leadership all the way.
The next trip was to Philadelphia. We visited many historic buildings. And we went to Atlantic City where we spent all Sunday, swimming in Atlantic Ocean and sunbathing on its crowded beach.
Washington, D.C. definitely was one of the most exciting field trips for us. I met and had a marvelous time with my friends at Gallaudet College who graduated from SDSD. We toured the city and its long list of famous places of cultural value.
On way back to Pine Lake camp, we visited the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, New York, an impressive experience. We also had the opportunity to visit Strasenburg Planetarium, which was very interesting.
I would like to talk more about the wonderful deaf leaders from whom we campers learned a lot. They did a lot to improve our self-esteem, knowing that deaf people can do well in life after school and can have good jobs if they work hard enough.
Andrew Vasnick’s teaching was very entertaining. He chose several campers and asked them to intimate the acts that he demonstrated. We had a lot of fun watching the campers being shy and so inexperienced. He showed us how and why we should use creative expressions. He also wanted everyone to talk very clearly with their signs and fingers. He is a deaf actor who works with the National Theatre of the Deaf in Connecticut. It was a lot of fun just being around this wonderful man who loves young people.
Dr. Robert Panara who is English teacher at NTID, explained everything we should know about poems. A poem, for example, expresses the true feelings of a person. You must know what the poem means before you can express it. You must be motivated before you can sign the words. To understand the true meaning of poetry requires a lot of work.
Dr. Richard Phillips, Dean of Students at Gallaudet College, talked about “YOU.” He said that we should know what we want to do after we graduate. You are not in school just to learn the courses, but also to prepare yourself for life after school.
Dr. Geraldine Adler talked about “Occupational Choice Theory,” about jobs for deaf people. We can look for better jobs, 2000 jobs are open to deaf people! She works at the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in Washington D.C.
Melinda Chapel, chairman of the 1969 Youth Leadership Demonstration at Indiana School for the Deaf, advised us to always talk with people of low intelligence and people of high intelligence. She emphasized the importance of working together as a team.
Dr. George Propp’s talk was about staying on the same level with media. It helps the deaf people to compete with hearing students. He encouraged us to challenge ourselves at all times to do better and to compete with hearing people, rather than thinking that they are better because they can hear. Just work harder than them and you will beat them.
Dr. David Peikoff who just became U.S. citizen several years ago, was born in Russia. He thinks everyone (deaf) can be anything such as superintendent of a school, president of U.S., first astronaut to the moon, and a Ph.D. degree holder! He is very proud that we have Jr. NAD because, during his childhood, he did not have the opportunity to learn as much as we do through Jr. NAD and YLC activities. He explained how it should be easier for us with Jr. NAD and YLC experiences to succeed when we go out into the world. He closed his speech with this: “Above all, be proud that you are deaf!”
I was very surprised when Dr. Peikoff said that many deaf people were inventors. A deaf man, Tsiolkovsky, invented a rocket. Siren, train hitch, and many other things were credited to deaf inventors. Even some of the inventions originally made by deaf people were stolen by hearing people, but those deaf people never challenged them. We learned that we can be like hearing people or better than them.
At the banquet, Don Pettingill, one of the nation’s well-known deaf leaders, was our keynote speaker. He talked about the NAD’s need for good leaders and the deaf adults were excited about the results of the two programs that are developing future leaders now—the Jr. NAD and YLC. We enjoyed it very much and many Gallaudet Preparatory School students drove from Washington D.C. to attend.
I had a wonderful experience at the Youth Leadership Camp, the most educational four weeks of my life.