Camp Hawk will take place from Friday, Sept. 18, 2015, through Saturday, Sept. 20, 2015, in the Pocono mountains. The camp allows for Lehigh students to bond and meet new people while getting away from campus. (Liz Cornell/B&W Staff)

Camp Hawk builds first-year friendships off campus

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Camp Hawk, Lehigh’s version of summer camp for first-year students, will take place at an authentic summer camp in the Pocono Mountains from Sept. 18 to Sept. 20.

The first Camp Hawk was held in 2011 at Camp Canadensis, and the location has not changed in the past five years. Camp Hawk is now part of the Great Pocono Escape, which includes student leaders from various campus organizations. Every year, hundreds of students depart Lehigh for the mountains to build connections and develop their leadership skills.

According to the Office of First Year Experience website, Camp Hawk “provides an opportunity to connect with other new students in a fun, relaxed and inclusive environment. By playing classic camp games – like canoe races and Iron Hawk – and having meaningful conversations, new students will form strong bonds away from school and will continue these friendships back on campus.”

The activities have changed since the first Camp Hawk in 2011, but the focus of the experience is still the same. Camp Hawk aims to help first-year students define their identities at Lehigh. The goal of the office is to foster a collaborative network of students by enabling them to explore what Lehigh has to offer them during their four years. Camp Hawk also satisfies one of the 5×10 requirements for first year students.

While attending Camp Hawk, first-year students interact with upperclassmen that serve as camp counselors. According to the Student Affairs website, Camp Hawk Counselors “serve as mentors, facilitators and role models for students attending Camp Hawk.”

In the spring semester prior to Camp Hawk each year, students who are interested in becoming counselors are interviewed both individually and in a group setting, which allows the Office of First Year Experience staff to choose applicants they think will best suit the position.

Cathy Fletcher, ’17, is the only returning counselor this year, after becoming a counselor her sophomore year. Fletcher did not attend Camp Hawk as a first year, but still was interested and applied to be a counselor.

“Once I became closer to the other counselors and participants at Camp Hawk, it allowed me to make lasting friendships and became one of my favorite experiences that I’ve had at Lehigh so far,” Fletcher said. “I was so happy with my experience that I decided to apply for the position for the second year in a row.”

Veronica McKinny, ’18, is a first-time counselor.

“I wanted to become a counselor so that I could pass on what I learned from camp last year, and from my first year in general, to this year’s campers,” McKinney said, “to help first-years find their way, to share with them what makes Lehigh great, to guide them to look inside themselves.”

Counselors and the office encouraged first-year students to prepare themselves mentally and physically for a weekend full of camp activities and being distracted from technology.

Camp Hawk is free for students, with the exception of a refundable $25 deposit to reserve their space. At the end of the weekend, the deposit is returned to participants.

Cheyenne Begley, ’16, participated in Camp Hawk as a first-year student and came back to be a counselor during her sophomore year. She said the goal of the program is to allow first- and second-year students to form connections with each other in a fun environment outside of Lehigh’s campus.

“Come to Camp Hawk with an open mind,” Begley said. “You will be surprised how much you gain after just a weekend spending with other first-year students and the counselors. I did not know what to expect when I first went to Camp Hawk as a freshman three years ago. I ended up meeting some of my best friends at Lehigh and we are still very close. Camp Hawk is simply one of the best Lehigh experiences I have had.”

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