This past summer, Sherwood Forest welcomed its newest year-round staff member, Alex Heck, as Program Coordinator for Quest & Supports for Success! Alex’s impressive background includes several years in outdoor recreation, having previously been a camp counselor, village director, and facilities director. He recently graduated with a Master’s degree in Public Administration and also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. After graduation, he joined the Sherwood staff as the Aquatics Department Head, worked as an Outdoor Education and Continued Contact staff member, and was the Program and Registration Specialist. Now in his role as Program Coordinator, Alex will oversee administrative duties of programs and assist the Supports for Success Manager in implementing strategies for serving camp alumni along their journey to post-secondary success.
Why did you initially decide to work at camp?
In 2015, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with camp youth from Ferguson, Missouri and Chicago. It really opened my eyes to all of the advantages I had growing up, all of the experiences I was blessed with, and showed me that opportunities I had taken for granted were not available for everyone. This experience totally changed my career goals and shifted the focus of my education. I later found out about Sherwood Forest through a class project and started doing many of my research assignments about Sherwood’s fundraising campaigns and the structure of its programs. When I saw an opportunity to work with Sherwood Forest, I had to take it. Luckily, I got the job as Aquatics Department Head in the summer of 2019 and have been doing everything I can to stay connected since.
Any first impressions or surprises?
Just like some of our new campers, I was nervous. I was joining the staff halfway through the summer and wasn’t sure what to expect. I was surprised by the size of camp and felt out of place, considering the camps I had been to were about 1/10 the size. Luckily, the staff was friendly and welcoming and I quickly settled in. Hopefully any nervous campers have that same experience and feel supported and welcomed the way I did.
What about Sherwood Forest brought you back each summer and ultimately made you want to join the year-round staff?
Camp for me is always about the kids. While working at a summer camp is a lot of fun and a great experience, I think everyone should have the same goal – to better the lives of the children we serve. I really felt that was a top priority at Sherwood Forest. I have worked at a few for-profit organizations and the conversation often came back to how much money was being made and how could the organization increase their profits. I did not feel that these goals aligned with mine so when I learned more about Sherwood and their mission, I knew it was where I was meant to be working.
What would you say camp gives a child that they can’t get anywhere else?
I hope everyone else who has spent time at camp can feel it too, but there is something very special about camp that allows people the opportunity to be themselves or even to find themselves in the first place. At camp, a child can be supported in this journey. I think living and learning within a supportive community is unique and creates opportunities that cannot be found anywhere else. There is an unexplainable energy that makes these things possible; it’s something that only camp people can understand.