Last camp of summer informs

Published 5:59 pm Saturday, August 1, 2009

On Friday, Aug. 7, the last day of summer for teachers before we begin our Monday meetings, we’ll host the last camp of summer at Pelham High School –– Camp Pelham.

This camp is the school’s traditional orientation for the freshman class. Inspired by her son’s college orientation, math teacher Betty Shivers shared her idea for a PHS freshmen orientation. The consensus was that our freshmen deserved an in-depth orientation, as well.

Shivers got Camp Pelham off to a great start and kept it going for many years. Shivers retired, and the legacy of Camp Pelham passed into the capable and creative hands of freshmen English Teacher Rebecca Burnett.

When she came to Pelham in 2005, Burnett brought both experience and a great talent for teaching freshmen. I am fortunate to teach in the classroom next door to Burnett, and to have many of the freshmen that she has taught as they become upperclassmen.

Burnett has a genuine affection for freshmen.

“I love my freshmen. Freshmen come to us so full of excitement about high school and so ready to join in the high school experience,” Burnett said.

Camp Pelham is the school’s way of embracing those eager freshmen and getting them off to an excellent and informed start. Freshmen sign up for Camp Pelham at registration during the last week of July.

For a small fee, incoming freshmen receive a T-shirt, lunch and a day full of fun and information. Upperclassmen and recent graduates sign up to help teachers, counselors, and administrators host the day which begins at 8 a.m. in the school auditorium.

Last year, we began the day with an alumni parade featuring graduates from almost every graduating class dating from 1978 through 2008.

As a PHS graduate, I was in that parade, and as a veteran PHS teacher, I also taught many of the parade participants. I was impressed with all that our PHS grads have accomplished and I was most grateful to Rebecca Burnett for offering such real examples to our freshmen of where their PHS education could take them.

This year, we are fortunate to have the reigning Miss Alabama, Liz Cochran, a 2006 Pelham graduate, to emcee Camp Pelham. After a welcoming ceremony, students attend sessions throughout the morning to learn all about Pelham High’s academics, extracurricular activities and traditions.

After lunch, students head to the gym for their first PHS pep rally, where cheerleaders teach them the school’s most loved cheers. The pep rally is always full of surprises, and I can hardly wait to see what transpires this year. Burnett says, “Camp Pelham is where freshmen learn about the pride that comes with being a Pelham Panther,” Burnett said.

Columnist Connie Nolen can be reached by e–mail at