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APR. 18, 2019

Alumni Spotlight: Jonathan Gibson

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Jonathan Gibson was an Eagle’s Nest Camp and Hante Adventures leader for 5 summers in 2003 – 2007 while he was a student at Duke University. During his summers at camp, Jonathan taught wilderness classes and was a cabin counselor for the Cabin 7 boys. He led several Hantes (including the first and only Huck Finn Hante) and also served as the Assistant Program Manager. Since leaving Eagle’s Nest Jonathan has continued to work as an experiential educator. These days Jonathan is living in Portland, Oregon with his wife and daughter, and is a faculty member at Wayfinding Academy, a  two year college that helps students discover who they are and what they are passionate about.

How did your time at Eagle’s Nest shape what you are doing today?

At Eagle’s Nest I learned the importance of intentional living. I also gained a love and respect for myself and others, and an understanding of how a community can really support people. These have become core values of mine. At Wayfinding Academy my role is to intentionally create a community for new students and to teach “Wayfinding 101” – a 12-week course during which we focus on who we are and what we want to be – many of the things that I learned at Eagle’s Nest.

What are some of your most memorable experiences from your time at Eagle’s Nest?

There are so many! My first summer at Eagle’s Nest I led a Hante. When I arrived for the Hante training clinic I didn’t know anyone. That night, three of the people I met took me on a night hike on campus and we went through the small underground tunnel near Three Falls. It was magical! Over the years at Eagle’s Nest there were many other magical moments.

What are some of your favorite things to do?

I love hiking, being outdoors and connecting with friends. I have a 4-year-old and I love taking her into nature.

To learn more about Jonathan’s work, check out this TedTalk of Wayfinding Academy’s president and founder Michelle Jones.

Are you an Eagle’s Nest Camp or Hante Adventures alum? Did your time at Eagle’s Nest have an influence on what you’re doing today? Do you want to share your story? Contact Paige at or by calling the office at 336-761-1040. I’d love to catch up and hear what you’re doing!

By Paige Lester-Niles

FEB. 22, 2019

Learning Doesn’t Have to End in June

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In a 2016 study by the North Carolina Youth Camp Association of parents who send their kids to camp in North Carolina,  91% of respondents (3,540 parents) answered “yes” to the question, “Does attending overnight camp help your child succeed in a school environment?” Why does camp help kids do better in school? They stay mentally engaged during the summer. Summer break is a long time for kids to go without using the information they learn in school. Kids need a bridge from the end of spring to the beginning of fall that allows them to build on their knowledge base at the start of a new school year. That bridge is camp.

At camp, kids stay mentally engaged during the summer, learn new skills, and practice their social skills. They use math in woodworking, cooking, and music. They use chemistry in photography/dark room. They develop their problem solving skills in rock climbing and whitewater canoeing. They practice their storytelling in songwriting, creative writing, and Nature Lore. They practice their writing and grammar by writing letters home. Older campers may be more likely to take on leadership roles in camp classes that they have taken for years rather than in a school club. They are in a comfortable place where they can learn to lead and teach. Without the pressure of school and tests, kids don’t feel the need to find one correct answer, and they have the freedom to take more risks and come up with creative responses.

Camp provides a unique opportunity for kids to experience the joy and community of a summer outside with friends while doing active and often unconscious maintenance of their academic skill set that will ensure their ability to jump back into the school year come Fall. They may even use their new confidence to join or start a club at school to continue enjoying their newly found love of archery, batik, or guitar.

Don’t think your child is ready to take on a full week of this immersive and educational summer experience? Give your kid a chance to see camp in action this summer. Check out our Nestling Day for prospective campers in Kindergarten through 5th grade!

By Anna Lauria

FEB. 8, 2019

The Making of a Strong Community

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Each summer our community at camp is created anew with young people and staff from across the U.S. and as far away as countries such as Australia, England, Japan, and Italy. We come from cities, rural areas, and small towns hoping to make new friends and reconnect with old.  For some of us, this is a summer tradition that has carried on for generations, for others it is a first foray into time away from home without family.  Every summer new memories are created, skill sets and confidence grow, and our network of “Nest friends” expands.

Our unique and special community at camp would not be what it is without Eagle’s Nest’s ability to provide financial assistance to those who may not otherwise be able to afford or fully afford 1, 2 or 3 weeks at a residential summer camp.  Each year we budget to grant scholarships amounting to nearly $115,000 from our operating fund.  Our loyal donors and supporters make another $35,000 in aid possible with their generous donations.  Many of those donations come from campers themselves who know in their heart what it means to have this experience and want to do their part in making the community strong.

Every summer approximately 20% of our campers receive some level of financial assistance through our Campership Program. We believe that financial status should not be a deterrent to fulfilling a child’s dream to make that leap and expand their horizon in a safe, supporting, joyful and challenging environment.  To be able to come to a place where each person can sink deeply into the natural world, know that they are an important cog in the community wheel, and grow into their best self.

We are so grateful to our extended Eagle’s Nest family who makes these dreams come true.  Thank you for believing and supporting the power of a community that is made up of folks from all walks of life.  If your dream is to be at Eagle’s Nest this summer and you need some help to make it come true, we have our last financial aid application deadline on February 15thWe’ll do all we can to bring that dream to reality.

By Noni Waite-Kucera

JAN. 25, 2019

Selecting Stellar Staff

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Each year, Eagle’s Nest is fortunate to have a stellar team of staff who are passionate about sharing their love of the outdoors with youth.  We take pride in the quality of our instructors and carefully assemble our team each summer with staff from varied backgrounds.  Many of our staff are in college studying to become educators and many of them grew up in the Eagle’s Nest community, as campers, Hante Adventures participants, Junior Counselors, and students at The Outdoor Academy.  We love to see our program participants excited to give back to their community as staff members.  Regardless of the number of years each staff member has spent in the Eagle’s Nest community, each person is a unique, creative, mature, and loving individual who dedicates their summer to educating and empowering our campers.

Our hiring process meets or exceeds the American Camp Association’s national standards for staff screening.  For every American staff member, we require them to complete a written application, video conference interview with our Camp Director, and to submit two written references and one phone reference.  Eagle’s Nest completes a background check through National Background Investigations on every staff member.  International staff members are pre-screened through J1 visa sponsors.  These organizations conduct in-person interviews, background checks and reference checks.  Eagle’s Nest reviews this information along with their written applications.  International staff members also participate in a video conference interview with our Camp Director.

Every summer staff member participates in our orientation program at the beginning of the season.  This time period provides a space for staff to receive in-person training on teaching skills, risk management, and supporting the growth and development of youth. In advance of their arrival at orientation, staff receive a manual containing Eagle’s Nest’s risk management policies and procedures and we review these policies and procedures extensively during training.

Orientation includes learning to address mental, emotional, and social health needs of the children.  Staff are taught to recognize these needs and provide care to ensure participants are in a safe and inclusive environment at all times.  This training also addresses the importance of recognizing signs of and reporting child abuse, ensuring staff members understand their role as mandatory reporters, and planning ahead to prevent situations in which a staff member is alone with a camper.

To ensure we are providing the best care for your camper, all staff members are at least 18 years old.  Our cabin counselors and program leadership have completed at least one year of life experience beyond high school. All staff on campus are certified, at a minimum, in CPR and First Aid and many of our wilderness staff members hold higher wilderness medical training including Wilderness First Aid and Wilderness First Responder certifications.

Eagle’s Nest provides a nurturing and supportive environment for growth of our participants and our staff members.  Counselors and instructors frequently receive feedback and evaluations from the administrative team to help them become stronger caregivers and educators.  Stay tuned in the coming months to learn more about our 2019 Summer Staff. To read about the 2018 Summer Staff and our Full Time Administrative Team, visit our website.

By Sara Gerall

JAN. 11, 2019

What Goals Will You Achieve in 2019?

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The New Year is here and the winter holidays have passed in a flash of friends, family, celebrations, cards, sledding, and too many sweets. On the night before saying goodbye to vacation to go back to work and my typical routine, I found a little time to sit down with my journal and reflect on the things I would like to achieve in the coming year. My list includes spending more time in nature, continuing to cultivate gratitude in my life, and making more time for reflection and peacefulness.

During our staff orientation we typically spend a fair amount of time setting “SMART Goals” (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) for our work with our campers. Throughout the summer, counselors work with campers and Hante participants to help them achieve their goals – passing the swimming test, learning to ride a horse, getting over their fear of camping in the woods, being a good friend, etc. Year round, members of the fulltime staff at Eagle’s Nest Foundation work enthusiastically to help realize our mission: “experiential education for young people, promoting the natural world and the betterment of human character.” Goals help us grow.

As you head into the New Year, congratulate yourself for the past successes that you have had with your goals and growth. Small achievements need to be celebrated; even if you haven’t mastered archery, you’re probably a much better shot now for the work that you put into reaching that goal.

When you consider your goals for 2019, I hope that you’ll spend time thinking about how those goals will help not only you, but also those around you and your greater community. For example, if it’s feasible, set a goal to walk or ride your bike to school or work more frequently. As a result, you’ll get a little more exercise, spend more time outside, save some money, and reduce your carbon footprint while you’re at it. Or maybe you’ll want to set a goal to seek solutions to challenges rather than venting and complaining when things are not going your way. Who knows what great innovation your brainstorming might create!

I wish you all great luck in reaching many, many goals this year.

We would love to hear what goals our campers are setting this year too!  What do you have planned for 2019? Will your time at the Nest or on a Hante Adventure help you work toward your goal? Share your ambitions with your social network and the Eagle’s Nest community by tagging us on Facebook or Instagram, @eaglesnestcampnc and @hanteadventures.

By Paige Lester-Niles

DEC. 13, 2018

The Splendid Table Family

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I love the end of the year because it presents multiple opportunities for everyone to come together and these gatherings usually include food.  I am always excited to share the fruits of my yearly baking extravaganza and to laugh, sing, celebrate, and be joyful as I prepare meals with friends and family.

At Eagle’s Nest, sharing meals and understanding where our food comes from is an integral part of creating community.  After parents leave on Opening Day, the first things campers and staff do is meet their table families. Table families are a group of six campers and two staff members who sit together at every meal throughout the session.   All of our meals are family style. Once everyone is served, you can hear the clinking of glasses as each table toasts the start of the meal. They bond through the shared experience of a hearty, healthy meal where campers are encouraged to try new foods, discuss their successes and challenges, and share interesting dreams with the group. Many campers agree that their table family is the closest community they have at Eagle’s Nest.

Campers also contribute to both meal preparation and clean up at Eagle’s Nest.  Throughout the session, each camper will have the opportunity to help our baker make bread for the entire community, bring compost down to the garden, harvest vegetables with our garden manager, and clean up after meals.

As Winter Break draws near, I want to encourage you to spend some time with your camper in the kitchen. Invite your camper to help you chop vegetables as you cook dinner or to lend a hand as you roll out that holiday cookie dough.  Cooking with your child teaches general awareness in the kitchen, and how to safely operate knives, stoves, and ovens. This is a great time to talk about the importance of healthy, balanced diets and to share stories of family recipes and traditions from your childhood.

Below, I have included two recipes from the Eagle’s Nest Cookbook for you to try with your camper. The first is an Eagle’s Nest Camp closing night dish, Spanakopita, a Greek spinach and cheese filled pastry.  This is a favorite among campers and staff! The second, a granola bar recipe,  you can make with your camper and wrap up for their lunch boxes in the New Year to share with their peers at school.

By Sara Gerall