I have been a member of Camp Compass Academy since 2002 as a student, student-mentor, and volunteer. The people, who know me best, know that I am who I am because of my family and Camp Compass. When you hear from many of John Annoni’s students, you will come to learn that we are a family. It is a bond formed in classroom and beyond into the outdoors through hardships and success to prepare students with some of the greatest life lessons.
Where I am today—I am a credentialed Professional Fee Coding Specialist for Lehigh Valley Physician Group within the Lehigh Valley Health Network. I abstract information from operative reports and progress notes and give them numerical codes for use of reimbursement, statistics, and medical advancements. I am currently working on my Associates for Applied Sciences for Health Information Technology to add to my two other diplomas in the field.
Where it all started—I met John Annoni and Chad Groover in 2002 in the 7th grade at Trexler Middle School. I had Chad Groover as a 7th grade Learning Support English teacher. Due to several medical conditions, I had been home-bound on and off throughout grade school and needed the extra help to catch up on fundamental skills I missed throughout the years. That being said I had limited friends as well. Mr. Groover had told me about Camp Compass Academy. He asked if I liked the outdoors—of course, I said yes, but that I did not have many opportunities to enjoy it. He explained that Camp Compass was an inner city outdoor youth program that had tutoring services as well as opportunities to learn about and enjoy the outdoors with activities like camping, fishing, and hunting. Back then, I would say I was more skeptical than most of the critics John Annoni faces to keep the program open. I thought it would make me look worse on the social ladder. How wrong I was!
One Monday after school, I went to the academy and to my surprise, I recognized quite a few people and who were not low on that ladder. Mr. Annoni came over to talk to me about the program and most important the rules I would have to follow to stay in it. He sat me down with a group of kids my age and level of the program. He introduced me to some of the older girls who would help me if I had any questions. Dianna and Natasha, These girls would be my mentors and become my friends, Dianna and Natasha. Mr. Annoni asked about my homework and told me there were volunteer teachers if I needed help as well as the older students. We then had a learning session about the outdoor and did some activity. I went home that night and told my family I wanted to continue to go. They signed me up and Mr. Annoni accepted me into the program.John Annoni has this charming and caring glow about himself with one of the warmest smiles you may ever see.
There are stages a student goes through within the Camp Compass Academy program. You have to reach certain goals to move on to the different stages. I loved being in the program because it gave I got to meet so many interesting people outside of Camp Compass—Business men and woman, teachers, and my favorite were the hunters who had plenty of stories to share. We had the opportunity to meet and learn from a variety of people, talk about the importance of education, how what we do now will affect our futures, career choices we could take and how to get there.
When I was in the program, I learned more about John Annoni as a person with a history that made him seem even more astonishing than I had already thought he was. His life experiences helped him connect with his students at a whole other level. Students hear about his story and open up to him about their own. He makes himself available for his students and stays involved in their lives. When I needed to tell him about my problems, no matter what they were, he would listen and try to help me out the best way he could….even if it was just a need for encouragement or the push to keep on going. He was there! Being at Camp Compass gave a sense of security because you have a support system—that may otherwise not be given to students at home. The teachers and volunteers truly care for the students who walk through those doors.
Camp Compass Academy’s program taught me about responsibility for my actions and to society, how to communicate efficiently and in a professional manner, problem solving, the importance of education, how to set and achieve personal and professional goals, social skills and confidence in myself. We were taught how to hunt and fish, but no one has to if they do not want to, but most of the students want to. To sum up all that Camp Compass has taught me is by saying they have given me the tools I need to achieve success. It is the individual students’ responsibility to make good use of it. It will not be the program that fails, it is up to the student to make permanent changes to their lives and continue to set goals for themselves outside of the program.