ACT camp blended fun, opportunity for teens

MIDDLEBURY — As Addison Central Teens wrapped up their sixth summer of camp last week, it ended with something critical to working with teens: food. A macaroni and cheese competition to be exact.
Serving 18 students this summer from Middlebury Union Middle School, Middlebury Union High School, and other area schools, Addison Central Teens (ACT) offered five one-week sessions of summer camp this year with themes ranging from Outdoor Sports to Farm-to-Teen. Led by Executive Director Zoe Kaslow, Middlebury College intern Jacqueline Palacios and recent Middlebury College grad Victor Filpo, ACT served an average of eight campers a week.
Excited about planning her first year of summer camp programming in her new role, Kaslow searched far and wide for activities and ideas.
“I wanted summer camp to be a blend of fun activities right in Middlebury’s background to remind teens how much exists locally while also providing access to further away opportunities,” she said.
Driving nearly 900 miles, stopping seven times for creemees, and competing in two cooking challenges, ACT summer camp provided teens with an invaluable summer experience: tech-free hours, time outside and new adventures. While the campers enjoyed old favorites such as paddle boating at Branbury State Park, hiking Snake Mountain and milking cows at Shelburne Farms, they also participated in unfamiliar activities. One highlight was a survivalist skills workshop in the Green Mountains with Josh Hardt of the Moosalamoo Center at Otter Valley Union High School. Natalie Krizo, whose son Evan participated in three weeks of camp, said, “This was a great experience for my son this summer. ACT Camp was so affordable and offered great events for the kids.”
And while Kaslow felt proud of the programming ACT provided, she was overwhelmed by the amount of support she received from the community.
“As I started reaching out to community partners, they returned their support tenfold for our programming,” she said.
That collaboration was at its strongest during the Farm-to-Teen week. ACT received a tour of the Middlebury Farmer’s Market, helped harvest green beans at the Knoll at Middlebury College (pictured, left), and toured the Monument Farms Dairy processing plant and farm in Weybridge.
Which is how their summer ended with food. On the last day of camp during ACT’s Farm-to-Teen week, teens made macaroni and cheese and salad for a panel of judges: Nora Peachin from Middlebury College’s FoodWorks program, Lily Branburn from HOPE (Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects), Emily Landenberg from Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op, and Jessica Pashko from UVM’s Master of Science in Dietetics program. The teens’ dishes were judged on creativity, taste, presentation, and the “localness” of their dish — teens had to identify for the judges where they sourced their cheese, meats and produce.
Branburn of HOPE said she “was so impressed with the amazing dishes cooked by the students and their spirit and tenacity with which they presented their delicious food! It’s partnerships like this that gives HOPE a chance to reach more members of the community in a variety of ways.”
With an aim to provide accessible programming to teens, Addison Central Teens offers their summer camp for $75 for the week in addition to awarding scholarships. This programming is made possible in part to support from the Free and Accepted Masons of Middlebury & Salisbury. The Masons believe that the youth is our future, and majority of Masonic charities are to youth organizations and individuals to help them to develop.
Other community partners included Vermont Field Sports, Vermont Department of Fishing and Wildlife, Middlebury Area Land Trust, Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center, Town of Middlebury Bridge Project and the Crown Point (N.Y.) Historic Site.
While Kaslow has already begun planning for next summer, she is focused on the upcoming school year.
“It will be our best one yet.”

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