Time out: The real deal

Time out: The real deal

Cathy Brownfield

There is nothing like a country getaway to get back to basics like face-to-face communication and team spirit, working together for the greater good, and standing tall and confident.


The Youth Coalition Leadership Camp has been an annual activity of Family Recovery Center’s Education Department for 25 years and counting. This year the camp was held at Camp Elkhorn near Bergholz with 42 youth from Columbiana and Jefferson counties attending the four-day camp.

Allison “Allison” Zepernick plays an integral role at leadership camp. She has been on staff for the camp for eight years, but her history goes back further. She was a member of the Youth Coalition in junior high school and four years of high school. She contracted for camp for four years before joining the education department where she is a prevention educator. Her enthusiasm was noted by her teammates, Doug and Ryan.

Doug Murray, also a prevention educator at FRC, spoke of the youth at this year’s camp. “I’m very proud of them. They were so engaged. It was amazing to watch.”

Ryan Busch attended camp as a contract worker for camp, but was hired full time on the return from camp. He also had high praise for the youth. “I learned so much from them. They were engaged in every discussion. I grew, too.”


Allison is confident that the youth who attended this year’s camp went home a little different than when they left for camp.

On first arriving, the kids are in those awkward moments of being thrown together with people they don’t know. Doug, a fan of the TV show, Survivor, suggested that the staff use some of those ideas to break the ice. The 42 teens were divided up into five teams and three groups that rotated daily. The first day each team had to create their team’s flag, working side-by-side. The goal was to find common ground as they got acquainted.

“At first the environment is over-stimulating for some,” Allison said, as the girl who thought she wanted to go home the first night. She was persuaded to stay the night and have breakfast in the morning, and then decide. The last day of camp she was glad she decided to stay.

Travis Pownell (Studio Oxygen Yoga) and the teens took to a field for a full, two-hour power yoga session.

“Not one of them quit,” said Jim Stitt, Education Director at FRC.

At Elkhorn there is a 13-foot wall. Each of the students have to get over the wall without tools. They helped each other to get over. Most failed on their first attempt, but everyone met the challenge.

“No one quit,” Allison said. “They cheered each other on. They were confident in themselves and their views of self.”

Marcus McFolling (Reach One Corporation) and his wife spent a day with the kids, speaking about his journey with addiction and the way she got through it without blaming herself for his addiction problem. They shared conversations with the teens about building strong relationships and understanding self.

The Columbiana County Education Service Center’s Melissa Galbreath presented survey information to the teens, which was enlightening. They were honest and engaged, offering a lot of input. They were not shy nor did they hold back. Though she was only at camp one day, she recognizes the amount of coordination of the education department, the work involved in getting youth involved and talking with the kids about today’s issues that challenge them.

Camp encourages teamwork and leadership, she said. And the kids utilized skills they didn’t know they have. She gave high marks to the staff and hopes it continues to grow. “It’s such a good thing.”

The greatest asset of Camp Elkhorn is no phone service. The kids are forced to think outside the box, to dig deep inside themselves, Allison said. “The quiet kids may benefit the most. They watch more than they talk. They learn to express their thoughts. Close relationships develop.” And, the youth become more confident of their leadership abilities, Allison said.

Leadership Camp is a very emotional experience that gives the kids a natural high, Allison said. The program teaches kids how to be there for each other and for other kids. What they learn they take back to their schools and share with other students. They decide what they want to share back home.

FRC’s Education Department is the largest in the state, said Eloise Traina, Executive Director of the agency. The staff works in nearly every school district in the two counties and leaves information with the guidance counselors for those students who are interested in participating in the education activities offered at FRC. There is no GPA requirement for any of the students or expense for them because of the generous support of funding boards and grant providers including the Mental Health and Recovery Services boards in Columbiana and Jefferson counties and the Drug Free Community Grant for Jefferson County. Principals, teachers, guidance counselors make recommendations of students they think would benefit from attending the camp, who show potential as leaders … youth making a difference.