Nothing beats a summer at Camp, and if we could, many of us would love to spend all year scaling the climbing wall, bagging ADK peaks, or water skiing on a glassy morning on the lake. Alas, summer comes to an end come August, and our community scatters all over the country and the world. But one way or another, many alums find ways to bring a little bit of Camp’s magic into the “off-season!”
Below you’ll read about how four alums’ experiences at Camp inspired their career choices, each in different fields. The same fun-loving experiences that develop moral, personal, physical, and leadership skills in Westport and Colchester have led to many diverse career paths for our alumni.
Under the leadership of #15017 Evan George, and Dudley parent and founder of Career Ready Coaching, Jeff Chapski, and with the support of our community, Camp has been building the infrastructure for a strong alumni network, helping our Leaders and Staff transition into the next phase of their lives and careers. In the spirit of amplifying their hard work, the Dudley Kiniya Alumni Association (DKAA) wants to highlight the careers of some alumni who were inspired by their time at Camp.
What is your current job title and industry? How do you describe your job to folks who may not be familiar with it?
#17147 JD Deardourff: Artist. I tell people I make collages for show and paint murals for dough.
#18555 Charlie O’Rourke: I am an actor in New York City. I’m currently in a production with the American Vicarious —a theater company in Brooklyn, NY—and am teaching high school theater at the Denzel Washington School of the Arts in Mt. Vernon, NY. I always say that I’m an actor first and foremost, but perhaps a more accurate description would be that I’m an acting teacher ready at any moment to act himself.
#21531 Sammi Tulungen (Muther): I am a Youth Services Librarian in Providence, Rhode Island, at the Community Libraries of Providence, a nonprofit that operates as the city’s public library. If it has been a bit since you last visited your local library, gone are the shushing staff and silent spaces! Libraries today are vibrant community centers. Each day is different. I get to jump from storytimes into weaving class, from playing with Legos to helping with math homework or planting in our garden.
#20444 Hannah McPheron: I work with the Girl Scouts of Greater New York as the Manager of Volunteer Support with the Troop 6000 team. Troop 6000 is an incredible initiative that started back in 2017 and is designed to provide Girl Scouting for families living in temporary housing in the New York City shelter system. The program creates community, teaches leadership skills, and builds a sense of belonging to young Girl Scouts navigating displaced housing. We work in all five boroughs, serving hundreds of children, and are growing rapidly as we move the program into asylum-seeking facilities in NYC. My day-to-day activity consists of leading groups of scouts but also recruiting new community volunteers and expanding our volunteer program. (Most recently, we added several Kiniya alums!)
How did Camp inspire this career choice? Were there any specific people or activities that may have influenced you?
JD: I spent most of my rest periods doodling and most of my choice time messing around in Brodie. As a Leader, I was inspired by fellow Leaders and fashion influencers #18457 Colin Heaberg, #18835 Will Gisel, and #18368 Burlington Barnett. As a camper, I always looked up to #15191 Ollie Jeffers (and still do a little bit 😉 ).
Charlie: I always loved acting and playing drama games as a kid. I took Drama Majors all three years I was a camper, and covered them as an JL, AL, and Leader whenever I could. I remember learning from #18079 Diana McGuigan, #19189 Candace Bruchs, #13043 Rich Egan, and #15546 Mike Candela in Drama Majors, but was apprehensive to get on stage in a Saturday Night Show. I finally got up the courage and auditioned. I was cast, and from then on, you couldn’t get me out of Witherbee Hall. Mike Candela actually told me I couldn’t audition for a show my junior summer because other kids needed a chance to participate. I have since worked with Diana at Witherbee as a staff member, and she even wrote a letter of recommendation that got me my current teaching job. Witherbee will always be an important part of my theater career, and I consider myself lucky for that.
Sammi: So much of what I loved most about being a leader at Kiniya is mirrored in what I do at the library. A lot of my time is spent connecting kids with books and programming that will excite and challenge them and that will help them to be kind, empathetic adults when they are older. Sound familiar? Public libraries, at their core, are a funny concept in today’s world—take our things for free, and just with your signature on the back of your card, we trust you to bring them back when you are done. It’s so special to be part of a neighborhood community in this way. I’m lucky to have been trained by the amazing Leaders I had, as well as my peers, on how to be part of a community because that translates directly into what I do as a librarian.
Hannah: When I began as a junior at Kiniya, there was an ever-present thoughtfulness to the idea of being a “leader.” It started out with small acts when you were a camper and grew into the building blocks of your teenage years aging through the leadership ranks. When I became a Leader (capital L) at 18, it was now every day, with less emphasis on myself and more on the leadership I was able to model and teach to my campers. I spent countless hours asking #20595 Kat Nelson for guidance, emulating #19231 Kari Mckinley’s leadership style, and constantly being inspired by my peers never to stop growing and learning in my own leadership. After I graduated college and tried my hand at a few careers, I continually came back to a passion for leadership development, specifically for girls and young women. While not every kid has the chance to go to Kiniya or Dudley, I want to help guide the children in my communities to see themselves as leaders.
What advice do you have for younger folks who may be interested in this career?
JD: Let it rip!
Charlie: Just because you’re not acting right this second does not mean you’re not an actor. The acting profession can be a lot of different things for a lot of different people. Find your sweet spot and don’t get discouraged!
Sammi: Check in with your local library for volunteer opportunities. It’s always exciting to have teen volunteers support programs or help with shelving. Attend programs, check out physical materials, or see what is on the streaming platforms; using your library is a great way to see if you like what we have to offer. To be “a librarian,” you need a degree in library science, but there are lots of jobs in libraries that do not require advanced degrees! I am glad I worked in libraries before getting my degree, giving me a chance to know it was what I wanted to do long term. Whether you are interested in being a librarian or not, I hope everyone reading renews (or gets) their library card soon!
Hannah: My advice to folks looking into leadership development with a nonprofit similar to the Girl Scouts is to begin by simply volunteering in your community. Find local organizations and initiatives dedicated to supporting families and individuals in your neighborhood and get involved. Be open to diverse, education-focused careers outside the classroom, and persistently invest in your own leadership growth and development. Last but not least, even after your last summer at camp, stay in touch with the CDK community. You never know who will lead you to the next opportunity; through a long series of events, an initial camp connection is how I ended up with the Girl Scouts.