Alumni camp staffers enjoy summertime work
as way to reach out, give back, stay connected















By Bryan Clark, Communications Intern

Summer is a surprisingly busy season at Alfred, despite the notion that it's a sleepy little village when the students aren't on campus. In fact, not only do some students stay here to assist with the wide variety of summer institutes and camps, young alums are also part of the staff needed for those programs.

These recent grads, some of whom are in Master's programs, regard their participation in summer programs as a special opportunity to gain more life experience while maintaining an Alfred connection.  

Patrick Grimmer, an instructor at Alfred University’s summer swimming camp and a 2010 graduate, says he benefits from the camp’s lessons and interaction with its participants.

Grimmer previously worked as a youth care professional at Hillside Children’s Center in Rochester while he attended Medaille College, where he earned a master’s degree in psychology in 2012. He’s approaching his second year of a doctoral degree in the school psychology program at AU.

“It’s helped me improve my swimming,” says Grimmer, who worked at the swimming camp for the fourth consecutive year this summer. “Coaching at the swimming camp has helped me to learn more about the techniques of swimming that you don’t pay attention to. It’s fun to see the kids improve It’s fun to give back.”

During this co-ed camp from July 7-12, swimmers entering grades seven-12 worked to enhance the technical aspects of stroke, training and the strategies needed to compete at the top level of competitive swimming. The camp’s structure included technical instruction, stretching and dry land training, training principles, and stroke development.

Camp director and Alfred Alumnus Brian Striker ’00, head coach of Swimming and Diving at AU, has run the program since he returned to his alma mater in 2000, continuing a practice set by his predecessors.

 “I really enjoy working with the high school-aged swimmers,” says Striker. “I hope to provide a positive exposure to the campus in attempts to keep AU on their radar when they go to make a decision about where to attend college.”

Striker says he tries to replicate the positive experiences he had at the summer camps he attended as a high school athlete.

 “We spend most of our time working on teaching the fundamental skills required for competitive swimming and try to provide each camper with the knowledge that will not only make them better swimmers, but to also provide them information to help them make better decisions throughout their career,” says Striker.

Striker says he appreciates Alfred alumni assisting him.

“They tend to be able to work very well with me and my coaching philosophy,” says Striker.  “I try to bring in former alumni or guest coaches that will complement my skills and help to provide a better experience.”

Another swimming camp instructor, Calista Merritt ’11, a mental health counseling graduate student at AU, says she never attended a swimming summer camp when she was younger.

“I wish I had,” says Merritt, a graduate assistant/assistant coach for the AU swimming team. “I feel like I would have benefited from having someone teaching me every nook and cranny.”

Merritt says assisting at summer camps is a positive way for graduates to stay involved with the University and gain professional experience.

“It’s a way to give back to what program they were a part of and the school they were a part of,” says Merritt. “I really like interacting with the kids. They have different ideas of swimming and different techniques. It really helps me with my coaching skills and with my overall knowledge of swimming.”

Alumni members assisted in other summer programs this year as well. Kristen Kovatch ’10 says as a full-time staff member at the Bromeley-Daggett Equestrian Center, a state-of-the-art facility at the Maris Cuneo Equine Park, one of her duties includes working at the residential camp.

 “I teach the draft horse driving program, guiding campers through all stages of driving from harnessing and hitching to actually driving the cart,” says Kovatch, Western trainer/instructor. “I assist campers as they work around their horses and generally keep them motivated and excited to be at camp.”           

Kovatch says she loved working with the center’s draft horse team and the campers.

“Seeing the campers' reactions to working with these enormous but gentle animals brings a smile to my face and gives me a sense of gratification for the job that I'm doing,” says Kovatch.

Kovatch says alumni involvement in AU’s summer programs is crucial to the University’s promotional efforts.

 “It connects you to prospective students and young people very viscerally and directly,” says Kovatch. “Working directly with students and prospective students connects alumni in a very real and tangible way.”

While an AU student, Sharie Willey ’11, the summer programs’ medical director, held a fundraiser that collected $5,000 for a student’s family in Haiti and Doctors Without Borders.

“It felt so good to directly help out that I decided to join the local volunteer fire company, A.E. Crandall Hook & Ladder Co.,” says Willey. “After getting my emergency medical technician degree, I decided to go after my paramedic certification.  I found out that I love medicine!  When I was contacted by Melody (McLay), director of Summer/Parent Programs, I thought it would be a great way to use the skills I have learned.”

Willey explains her responsibilities as medical director included receiving, storing, and assisting the campers in both prescription and over the counter medications, and working under Department of Health protocols to respond to any emergencies or medical care that was needed.

She says she assisted campers in other ways as well.

“Occasionally a camper gets homesick or just wants to hang out away from all of the other kids,” says Willey. “I told all of the kids that they are welcome to come to the med center any time and hang out!”

Willey says alumni should find opportunities to promote AU to young people.

“Passing on your experience and using your knowledge of the school and the area, is a great way to give back,” says Willey.  “If alumni had a great experience here, then it would make sense that they would want to help foster that feeling in future perspective students, and show them all that AU has to offer.”

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