Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Superintendent's Visit to Camp Waskowitz

The first thing you see upon arrival at Highline's beloved Camp Waskowitz is the sign:


The name on top - and I'm sure many of you know this - is that of Carl Jensen, Highline's second superintendent, from 1953 to 1971. Jensen was instrumental in arranging for a loan for the district to purchase the Depression-era "Camp North Bend" in 1957. Jensen passed away a few years ago and I am honored to have met him as in his 90's, sharp as ever. No doubt every superintendent since has spent time at Camp Waskowitz. And although I have been many times myself in previous years, I had to make the drive up during my last week of school as superintendent, perhaps like a president visiting his 50th state days before leaving office.

Camp Waskowitz is named after UW football captain Fritz Waskowitz, who died over the Pacific as a World War II fighter pilot. The camp is steeped in history, with many buildings that are historically protected. Every time I visit the camp, I am amazed by how little it has changed. New additions, like the kitchen on the backside of the historic dining hall, blend in seamlessly. At the same time, new wrinkles appear every time I visit as well. This year, it was the totem poles straddling the gate to the river, pictured below. (As an aside, I helped erect the gateway arch leading to the river during a team building exercise in 1999, my small contribution to camp.) 

I'm sorry to have missed our students at Camp. All Highline sixth graders go to Waskowitz for a week, a memory that has been on the tip of our graduates' tongues for generations. In some families, you'll find three generations that have attended camp, recalling the hikes and campfire skits. These days, our high school program has grown to be another important part of the Waskowitz experience. In addition to high school students who join their old elementary school for a week, some students now experience the transformational opportunity of spending a semester engaged with camp staff. Some of camp director Roberta McFarland's greatest pride pours out recalling off-track high school students who found themselves in the solitude of the outdoor experience.

While I missed the kids, I was glad to connect with staff. This is an upbeat, proud group who provides students with experiences they might never otherwise get. I particularly enjoyed learning that a former student of mine, Ashley Schindel, has played a major role in the program at camp. I also learned that a school district in Colorado is opening a camp based on Waskowitz. That's a wonderful tribute to a wonderfully unique asset to Highline, our very own Camp Waskowitz.

Camp staff (note: Sasquatch is not on the payroll)

My former student Ashley Schindel is a rising star in camp management

Roberta McFarland shows off the new totem poles

Plaques detail the history of the old CCC camp

The historic dining hall is joined to a rebuilt kitchen

The dorms are well kept and the art around campus feels comfortable

The field allows for many outside activities
Don't leave Waskowitz without visiting the Snoqualmie River!

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