Rachel Solden, a 17 year old from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, has spent the last four summers attending three of JKCP's different camps and programs. In 2014, she spent four weeks at our Xploration Summer Camp at Haverford College. The following two summers, Rachel spent several weeks at our Enrichment Summer Camp at Villanova University. Most recently, she spent four weeks throughout this past summer at the University of Pennsylvania’s Art: Summer at Penn Program. Over her four years with us, Rachel has really come into her own as a young adult. She attributes JKCP for helping her become the confident, independent woman she is today.
JKCP: How did you first learn about JKCP?
Rachel: Our cousin, who lives in the Philadelphia area, told my grandmother about JKCP. My grandmother talked to my parents, who then did some research and asked me to take a look at the website. The rest is history!
JKCP: What initially interested you about attending JKCP's middle school summer program?
Rachel: I was initially interested in the JKCP programs because they seemed unique. Being in both a camp and college environment was different from what I had experienced in the past. Your website also caught my eye initially. Seeing the videos and pictures of actual people my age having fun made me want to attend.
JKCP: What has your overall experience been like attending our programs?
Rachel: My summers at JKCP have always been a really great experience, it's my favorite time of the year! The JKCP programs allow me to be the creative, outgoing and adventurous version of myself - not the shy, quiet student I am during the school year. I love my time spent at JKCP! I have so much fun while constantly learning something new and making friends from all over the world. I have so many great memories and have learned so much throughout my years in your programs. Not only have I learned about cooking, filmmaking, interior design, drawing and sculpture; I have also gained confidence in myself, in my ability to manage away from home and have become more independent. I really feel like I've found my second home.
JKCP: Randi, what has it been like sending your child to our programs in the summer?
Randi (Rachel's Mom): Sending Rachel to JKCP has been a wonderful experience for her and for our family. She first attended Xploration at Haverford when she was 13 and we quickly realized we had found a summer program that was perfect for Rachel. The following summer, Rachel returned to the Enrichment program at Villanova, and again thrived tremendously. That year, she ventured into Filmmaking, Interior Design and even took a Psychology class. All her summer experiences with JKCP allowed her to grow and gain self-confidence, which propelled her in such a way that last summer Rachel had the confidence to apply to University of Pennsylvania's Art: Summer at Penn program. The process of applying to the program required a new level of maturity and growth, and receiving the news that she was accepted solidified those traits. It is hard to express in words just how much the summer experiences have helped her become validated; she no longer feels like a square peg forced into a round hole. She has found her happy space, and is now a self-confident and engaged young lady.
JKCP: What are some of the similarities and differences between all three programs?
Rachel: All three programs are on a college campus, with students from all over the world with varied interests, cultures and backgrounds. With the Xploration and Enrichment program, I was able to pick and choose between different classes and create my schedule each week I was there. With the Art Program, I had to apply to attend a specific program the entire time.
JKCP: What was the transition like coming from Haverford's Xploration program to Villanova's Enrichment, and then to Penn's Art program?
Rachel: Going from Xploration at Haverford to Enrichment at Villanova seemed daunting at first. The Haverford campus was smaller, but the opportunities at Enrichment were endless. Once I arrived at Villanova, I knew it would be ok. I found it easy to connect with other teens and made friends immediately. The schedule was similar at both programs, so once again the adjustment was easy. The transition from Enrichment to Penn's Art program was a bit more challenging. My first day I managed to get myself lost while on a tour, I was actually with the Penn Med students rather than the Penn Art & Architecture students. The JKCP staff was very supportive; and led me back to my group. After the first week at Penn, I felt really comfortable. I was able to navigate the campus, and get to my classes. The campus is in the city, but still felt safe with all of the campus security, and plenty of JKCP staff. My classes at Penn were higher-level classes, but started off slowly and built upon the skills of the individual students. With each transition I felt like I was making gradual advances, literally building upon the skills I already had.
JKCP: Do you feel that our programs prepared you for college and/or your future career?
Rachel: Yes! As a resident student, I lived in the dorms and had a roommate. I had to adapt to the college campus and maintain my schedule, just like a college student. With regard to my career, it definitely helped prepare me. I want to attend college, and ultimately become an art teacher. JKCP helped me develop my skills & continues to motivate me.
JKCP: Do you keep in touch with your JKCP friends throughout the year?
Rachel: I do keep in touch through social media with most of my friends, and once in a while we will call or text. However, as soon as we see each other at camp, it’s like we never left. I think it’s exciting to see friends from the past programs.
JKCP: Would you ever consider working for us? If yes, which program would you choose?
Rachel: I would love to be a staff member! My experience has been so wonderful and I definitely want to continue coming back. I would choose to work at Enrichment because I see myself as a future teacher. I believe I would be able to connect with the students and understand their point of view.
JKCP: Is there anything else you'd like to share, that I haven't asked you?
Rachel: The best thing about JKCP is that I have so many choices. I can choose what I want to do during the day, as well as evenings and weekends. Although my time and experience feels structured, it also is flexible and free. I have time to hang out and socialize with other teens and I am always doing things throughout the day that I absolutely love.