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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Camp Cherokee Reaches Its 5th Year
by Tesina Jackson - Cherokee Phoenix Reporter

WELLING, Okla. – Since 2009, Cherokee Nation's Education Services has hosted Camp Cherokee, which exposes Cherokee students to art, traditional games, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This year's camp, which took place July 20-25 at Camp Heart O' Hills, celebrated its five-year mark.

"I was running an arts camp in 2008 and one of my colleagues was running a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) camp in 2008," Bill Andoe, Education Services deputy executive director and Camp Cherokee director, said. "We realized that we were doing the same types of things. We were both arranging lodging. We were both arranging meals. We were both going to the same schools, and we decided ‘let's just do this together. Let's just combine it and make it a big camp.' So we only had about 80 students between us that first year and the next year we had 300 students at Camp Cherokee."

The overnight residential camp hosts students entering grades seventh through 12th. They attended morning and afternoon classes based on their areas of interest.

"Right now we have 24 classes at any given time between day camp and residential camp," Andoe said. "Residential camp really focuses on art, STEM and culture, and it's also designed so a student can immerse themselves in something that they are passionate about."

Classes included singing and voice lessons, robotics and advanced robotics, performing arts, video and digital arts, Native science, traditional games, pottery, basketry and photography.

"I chose to take singing because I've always loved singing and I've been in choir for a long time," camper Macie Sullateskee said. "I chose to take traditional games because I like to play stickball and I like to play Indian football. I like to be active."

Sullateskee, 16, who attends Sequoyah High School, said this was her second year attending Camp Cherokee.

"It was a really fun time last year, and it was a great learning experience too with all the classes," she said. "Everybody was really nice. You make a lot of friends, and it was just a good experience so I wanted to come back."

Sullateskee said she plans on attending Camp Cherokee next year and one day volunteer for its staff.

Andoe said new STEM track classes were added this year so students could take a different class everyday in the morning while still participating in culture classes in the afternoon.

STEM track classes consisted of chemistry, crime scene investigation science, traditional games, earth science, pottery, engineering and basketry. In the evening, students can swim, play basketball and other games or socialize.

"We don't do this alone. Camp Cherokee takes the full force of Cherokee Nation," Andoe said. "We have tribal security, Marshal Service. We have health services. We have nurses 24-7. Different departments come out and offer classes. Cherokee Phoenix offers photography. We have environmental services, Cherokee Heritage Center. It really takes a lot of people, a lot of departments and a lot of people back at the (tribal) complex doing everything from payroll and contracts and billing for supplies in order to make this happen."

Camp Heart O' Hills was also the location for the sixth week of Cherokee Day Camp. Nine classes were offered throughout that week allowing students in grades first through seventh to experience all arts, culture and STEM classes, as well as different types of presentations such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education and I Believe by CN citizen Brian Jackson.

The Cherokee Day Camp was added several years ago and is held for six weeks throughout the tribe's 14-county jurisdiction.

Approximately 230 students attended the residential camp this year, and 200 students attended the day camp on July 21-25.

"For this one week at Heart O' the Hills, near Welling, Okla., this is our Cherokee community," Andoe said. "Our camp is our Cherokee community. We want them to behave as if they are in a Cherokee community, which means respect and caring for each other, being helpful. That's what we emphasize. They're all Cherokee kids."

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