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High schoolers give gift of summer camp

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Elizabeth Floyd

DURHAM, N.C. — Summer camp is the fondest childhood memory for many a nostalgic adult, and yet few former campers think of those whose parents never had enough money to send them.

Four students at Durham Academy did.

When a class of Duke University students challenged Academy high schoolers to plan and enact a project for the community good, Samantha Leder, Brennan Vail, Mary Elizabeth Lovelace, and Ashley Brasier thought of their blissful childhood summers.

“The opportunity to go to summer camp was so much a part of my growing up and of my friends’,” says Leder.

With guidance from the Duke students, the four high-school freshman set off on a fundraising scheme that ranged from grant applications to ice-cream sales and landed them with almost $1,000 to organize a week-long camp for underprivileged Durham kids.

This week, SOCK Camp, which stands for Serving Our Community’s Kids, is in its third summer.

Forty-five kids from Hope Valley Elementary and Forest View Elementary are spending the week making animal masks, having sack races and playing with Rainbow the Clown.

Leder says the first year they were shocked at how well the camp went.

“You were thinking: What would these kids have been doing otherwise?,” she says. “Would they have been sitting at home?”

Though the camp is pure fun, the behind-the-scenes preparation work is not your average high-school assignment. The girls organize everything themselves, from bus routes to health release forms to counselor applications, with help from Durham Academy science teacher William Edwards.

As they head off to college in the fall, they even have a leadership-transition plan worked out.

Their five successors, all freshmen and sophomores at Durham Academy, have sat in on meetings since late December and, after watching the four founders run the first two days of camp this week, will take over troubleshooting.

The girls are confident the camp will continue in their absence. They’ve already had overwhelming support from their school peers, with over 100 counselor applications this year.

“We didn’t go reach to the world, but we reached to Durham,” Leder says of the girls’ success. “And I think Durham thanks us for it.”

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