Good evening, my name is Jarred Jefferson. I have been a student of Camp Zion for 14 years, so I feel like this was the best way to sum up my experiences throughout the years.
C is for community, as in there is a palpable atmosphere of community and family as soon as you step through the front doors. As I look out across the audience , there isn’t a single person I wouldn’t go to war for and I know they’d all do the same for me and that no matter what we’d all have each other’s backs. Here at Camp Zion, I have formed so many lifelong friendships and bonds, I even met my best friend here, and my family here will forever hold a special place in my heart.
A is for academics. This may not be the students’ favorite component of the summer, it certainly wasn’t mine, but Camp Zion realizes that being in good standing academically can go a long ways when for a student when it comes to attaining success in and out of the classroom, and they usually try to implement academics into the day in the most captivating and innovative ways possible to keep the students interested, therefore getting their best effort out of their work.
M is for all of the unforgettable memories I’ve made the past 14 years, ranging from vacationing to Orlando and New York, twice, to working tirelessly all summer long to craft and perfect our step routine in order to claim bragging rights over the other classes and to even being granted the chance to help teach the K-3rd after school program class and learning something new each and every day from those bright and intelligent young minds. To my ELITE group, I will always treasure all the fun times and memories we made this past school year and summer. We were a tight knit bunch that worked together utterly well, from the scavenger hunt at Banning Mills to finding ways to blend our different brilliant ideas to create eye-catching and informative billboards. We had a lot of fun this year, but more importantly we all grew and matured into better leaders and I can’t wait to see what you all do next.
P is for Pastor Parker whose dream and vision allowed Camp Zion and Next Level to be the great program it is today. His spirit of hard work and unshakeable faith was infectious and are the valuable tools we need in order to build and spread his legacy as Camp Zion continues to grow for years to come.
Z is for the word zealous, which, I think, is the perfect word to describe the entire staff here at Camp. Every staff member throughout the years was so enthusiastic when it came to helping the students and furthering their learning. Most children would be opposed to learning during the summer, but here at Camp Zion the teachers made it fun and entertaining. The staff made sure Camp ran smoothly and orderly each summer, and you won’t find a better and more loving staff anywhere in the country and I’m very appreciative for each and every one of them. Ms. Tammy, Ms. Deborah, Auntie Kasey, JG, Mr. Harvey, Mrs. Kim, and Mrs. Eileen and all the other staff members that made Camp Zion great, thank you for helping me on my journey to manhood and I will miss you all dearly.
I is for inspirational. Camp Zion inspired me to always strive for my dreams no matter how big or improbable they seemed to be. At Camp Zion, the sky is the limit as to what you can achieve and the staff instills that belief into every student, because one of the goals here is to see every student succeed and to become the best person they can potentially be.
O is opportunities, as in the plethora of opportunities that come your way on a daily basis at Camp Zion. Whether it be the opportunity to mature as a leader when you see your peers doing wrong and you have the option to lead them down the right path or the opportunity to experience different enrichment activities that you’d never thought you would try in a million years. The variety if opportunities you could run into at Camp Zion are limitless, and each one of them all contribute to forming you into a well-rounded individual.
N is for not finished yet. This is Next Level’s 15th year anniversary, and has already made great strides in the community and in the lives of many. Any ordinary organization would be content with the progress that Next Level has already made, but knowing the staff and the people of this program…Next Level is going to eventually make an impact not only on the state of Georgia but on the country as a whole. So many lives are going to be influenced just as I was and its going to make a tremendous difference for years and years to come. I cannot wait to come back and be part of this organization and to help it to continue doing all of the great things it’s doing.
As you’ve probably noticed by now the words and phrases I’ve used spells out Camp Zion and they represent what Camp Zion means to me personally during my long journey to where I am today. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I’m at today in my academic career nor my maturation process if it was not for Camp Zion. Having the opportunity to be a part of Camp Zion was a blessing for me and my family. It gave my mom a peace of mind knowing me and my brother weren’t out running the streets, but instead we’re in a safe environment being doing something productive. My mom, who is a single mother, did a terrific job of raising me and my two brothers , but as the saying goes, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and there is no other village that will better equip and prepare a child with the tools and knowledge to prosper in society and in life than Camp Zion.
As I’m praising this wonderful program and all that it has done for me, I can’t forget the one person that made Camp Zion and Next Level the transforming force it is in the community it is today, and that is Mrs. Lakesia Toomer. I never believed the phrase ‘ one person can change the world’ until I fully understood the impact Mrs. Kesia has had on this program, and on the entire middle Georgia area. She has been like a second mother to me over the years, and a second mother to a lot of children. She cares for every Camp Zion student as if they were her own, and wants nothing more than to see all of us succeed in life. I can bet there is a lot of stress that comes along with writing numerous grants , making sure the curriculum is up to date, and running a program such as this , but you could never tell it from the vibrant , welcoming smiles and big hugs she gives when you see her in the hallway. Personally, Mrs. Kesia has been the perfect role model for me and has left a positive influence on my life and the lives of many other young people. I can only pray that I can be half the person she is when I grow up. So to Mrs. Kesia , I would like to say thank you , for all you have done for me the last 14 years and I do not know where I would be right now had it not been for your guidance and support. I’m genuinely going to miss walking up and down the halls of Camp Zion as a student every summer, but hopefully I’ll definitely be back to see the great strides and progress that Next Level is making in the community and to see the myriad of lives being changed due to taking part in such an evolutionary program like this very one that changed my life forever. Thank you.