Meet L.I.N.K. Leader: Brianna Penson
My name is Brianna Penson. Since I was 13 years old, I’ve spent the majority of my years attending the Newnan Coweta Boys and Girls Club. The 1st year, I was able to attend Joseph B. Whitehead Boys and Girls Club. When I was 13 years old, I got the opportunity to find out and experience an outdoor overnight summer camp. As a city girl, I wasn’t used to spending most of my time outside;I preferred to watch TV instead. I decided to give it a try. The 1st year I told my mom that we learned how to shoot archery, orienteering, build shelter, cook & sleep outside and much more as soon as I came home from camp. The 2nd time I was a bit older, so I got to be in the Egwani clan which we got to do Kayaking for four hours down the river, go mountain biking, backing and make a dish called Frittatas. The 2nd year of camp touched me most, because during the award ceremony at the end of the week I earned the Buddy Award, which is an award given out to the camper that demonstrates teamwork, positive attitude and is helpful to the counselor and their clanmates as well. Then when I got back home it hit me that camp was over and I was still “Camp Sick” for about a week. I realized that at Camp Kiwanis there was always something to do every hour of the day, so camp kept me very occupied. I was so busy there, that being on my cell phone was never needed.
A couple of months later, I received a letter in the mail introducing the L.I.N.K Program and how you can have the chance to tryout and work. In 2014, I made it into the L.I.N.K Program. This is where my life changed forever. All I could think about was how only 5 kids out of at least 22 could make it. This was my 1st challenge that made me step out of my comfort zone and go above and beyond. I told myself that I have to stand out; what can I do to be different and bring new to the table. I started out as an F.I.T, which is an assistant counselor. My first year working at camp will be a memory I never forget. I was facing this minor setback, but at the age of 14 I thought I would never overcome this. When Ms. Carly told me “Things are not just given to you Brianna, you have to work hard and earn the things that you want.” I then realized that I had to get myself together and I knew Ms. Carly saw a lot of potential in me and that she wanted me to learn the hard way so I could become the person that I am today. I later then got promoted as an A.L.O.T, which helps serves in the kitchen. Before you learn how to lead you must learn how to serve. This was the year that I improved my social and communication skills. When working with other people I have to solve problems and compromise in order to get things done. I knew that the show must go on whether you are ready or not.
Next thing you know I was moving on up in the L.I.N.K Program. My 3rd summer I was promoted and became an L.I.N.K Instructor, I was the Co- Counselor of the Egwani. The Egwani Clan was the most impactful year I got to experience. At times I had to be flexible and step up anywhere I was needed. Every kid I came across I change there life. I created a bond and was like the big sister they never had, which ties together with my next following summer as a girl counselor. I love to be in charge of my own group of kids now. I was closer than ever before with kids. I got to make that 1 on 1 connection. Making kids feel comfortable enough to trust you with secrets and stories is amazing because you never know who is going through what. The most important life lesson I learned is to never give up no matter how hard it gets, I can achieve anything. My favorite quote is “Be better than the person you was yesterday.” I have to continue to motivate not only myself but my co-workers as well. My co-workers keep my spirits up and typically we don’t even acknowledge us as co-workers but as family. We are one and we support each other no matter what the circumstances are. This summer has been one the strongest connection with the staff that I’ve seen since I started working here.
This summer it was my privilege to be on the leadership team and to be in the position as a Girl Village Unit Leader. The Girl’s Unit Leaders watches over all the girls campers and staff. One of my challenges I faced as a Unit Leader was being only 19 years old in charge of everyone. I was also being faced with being a supervisor over my peers, but when you are in a position like this you learn when it’s a time to play and a time to get the job done. I learned to not abuse this leadership power towards my co-workers. My goal was to be there for them to the best of my ability and show that I have their back no matter what. I saw growth in my co-workers and I wanted them to be above average. I helped give them that extra strength they needed to keep persevering each week. Whatever challenge they face was mine as well to let them know your not in this alone, we got this!
I am currently attending Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University in Huntsville, Alabama. I am approaching my Junior year. My major is Family and Consumer Science with a concentration in Human Development and Family Studies. My previous major was Entrepreneurship and I wanted to own a photography business. My school doesn’t offer a Photography major, so I decided in the future, when I can earn enough money, I will pursue photography and that will be my 2nd passion. I changed my major because my heart was truly touched by the kids at Camp Kiwanis. I hope in the future, I can become a Youth Director and own a mentoring program. I want to consistently move forward in changing kids life. I’m still looking for scholarship opportunities to help pay for school. There are financial challenges. I go to a school that’s out of state and before I graduate I have a lot of faith, that I will become debt free from student loans and start my career. Money is a hard obstacle to overcome in college, but I still don’t let that get in the way of my education. My mom has Lupus so she tries her best to support me as much as possible and this is why I choose the path that I did because she makes the most impact on my life. I want to give back to her and one day become a donor for Camp Kiwanis because they did so much for me. Saying thank you just isn’t enough.
At the end of the day the number one objective is For The Kids. When I received my Legendary Link award this summer, which is an award when you have completed the whole link program and become apart of the leadership team, I knew I had left my mark and my legacy will remain there forever.
Inspired to give?
Meet L.I.N.K. Leader: Taj Washington
My name is Taj Washington and I attended the Douglasville Boys & Girls Club from the ages of 8 to 16. With the approval of Mr. Steve, my club director, I was able to go to Camp Kiwanis at the age of 8. I enjoyed it so much I went back multiple times. My weeks of being a camper at Camp Kiwanis ended in from what I can remember a buddy of the week award as well as two camper of the week awards. I loved camp and the workers so much that two of my friends and I decided to try to work there ourselves. Two of us made it through and became LINK members. The word LINK stands for Leaders In Natures Kingdom and consists of teen workers. As a LINK member we worked one weekend out of each month to better our leadership skills. It usually takes me longer than most people to open up and become comfortable with my peers. At Camp Kiwanis Mrs. Carly always says, “Let your freak flag fly”. This environment allowed me to settle down and become more talkative with those around me. That’s when I realized I was surrounded by like-minded individuals who really care about the youth. I began to see my peers such as Brian Ball and Pherow Drain as role models. The energy they had and their positive attitudes were contagious, and I was more than happy to catch the bug.
As a LINK member you start as a secondary counselor, FIT (Facilitator In Training), and work your way up from there. My first year consisted of faking it until I made it and then striving from there. I grew ad learned a lot and my work culminated in me winning FIT of the year. After that I graduated into the next step in the LINK program, an ALOT (America’s Leaders Of Tomorrow). ALOTS are the people who help and clean in the kitchen because “To learn how to lead you must first learn how to serve”. My first A LOT year was hard and it seemed I couldn’t do anything right. I struggled a lot, no pun intended. That year taught me how strong I was to not quit but I also realized how much love I had for the kids that come to camp. It was a tough deciding that I was going to work at camp the next year. I remembered all of the smiling faces of all of the kids and how camp made me feel when I was younger. So I decided I still wanted to be a part of that experience. The next summer I figured how I could better myself to improve my summer. I pulled from my examples of great LINK members and made it my mission to bring the same energy and positivity they always had. The three summers that came after making that a goal were amazing and so influential not only to me but hopefully, also to the kids and my coworkers. I cannot say I am positive in knowing exactly what career I want to have, but I do know Camp Kiwanis has taught me how important the youth is. I know I want to continue to help kids and those in need. Camp Kiwanis has shown me I will not be satisfied unless I am doing something that makes a positive difference in the lives of people.