Since its founding, Maryville College has invested in the mission of doing good on the largest possible scale. To this day, this goal is exemplified by the incredible students, alumni, faculty, and staff who make up the college community. 2019 is our bicentennial year, and we are taking this opportunity to highlight some of the most notable individuals and the work they do to make our college and the larger community a better place.
This month we are pleased to highlight one of Maryville College's outstanding alumni - Whitney Winston. Whitney goes above and beyond for her community through her work as the Founder and Director of Camp in the Community!
Whitney Winston, Class of 2010
Who is Whitney Winston?
Whitney is an alumna of Maryville College who graduated with a degree in Outdoor Recreation and Business. Inspired during her time at Maryville College through volunteering with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and Camp Wesley Woods, Whitney has gone on to found her own organization: Camp in the Community (CITC). This incredible organization works to provide a fun camp experience for communities that otherwise would not have access to a summer camp. Whitney has always been an “outdoorsy” person and enjoys singing, hiking, camping, backpacking, and traveling.
Whitney Winston was recognized and nominated by her mother and Office Manager of the International House, Micki Pruitt, and the Director of Community Engagement at Maryville College, Amy Gilliland. In their recommendations, both agreed that Whitney has inspired those around her with her passion and dedication to giving back to the community. Each spoke of Whitney’s willingness to go above and beyond to give back, and how that fire to help and bring joy led her to where she is today. Amy, who is also a board member for CITC, was quick to recognize how Whitney’s organization truly embodies the college mission of “Doing Good." Due to the highly effective and creative way that CITC serves children and families in areas of high economic need. Amy believes that, with Whitney at the helm, CITC will continue to remain faithful to their aim of providing high-quality summer camp experiences to those who otherwise could not afford it. Amy is excited to see plans to expand the model of CITC in even more high-need neighborhoods come to fruition. Amy expressed,
Whitney’s vision, passion, and leadership are exactly what CITC needs to keep moving forward and serving more children and youth.
Micki echoed these sentiments with a touch of pride as a supportive mom,
One of her characteristics that is so important is that she is so strong. She goes over the top to do whatever is best for her organization.
During her interview, Whitney spoke about her experiences at Maryville College, and how her education here, paired with her 14 years’ experience in camping ministry, has guided her through the creation of Camp in the Community. She values access and inclusion. Over the years she has found the camp experiences that she loves lacked the diversity that is so important to her. She explained,
As I did [my degree], I realized that most of the people that we are working with are, one, all white, and, on top of that, have some money to go to camp for a week. It is not a cheap thing.
While attending Maryville College, the Intervarsity organization provided Whitney the opportunity to go to Greensboro, North Carolina and work in an inner-city community. She completed a project that required her to live and work in the community given the same amount of funds that a family from the area typically has after paying their bills. The program event prevented participants from using credit cards or extra money. This experience allowed her to develop a deeper understanding of the obstacles people face when growing up and living in an underserved community. As she worked with the children in Greensboro, a deep sense of justice and care was fostered within her. She realized that she would not have the opportunity to meet these children at the camps where she usually worked. This is an issue she wanted to address.
Whitney recalls her camp experiences as a child as opportunities that allowed her to explore and grow as a person. She could make mistakes without judgment and jump back, unscathed, into activities with others. She considers experiences and settings such as these essential for all children’s development, and the idea that some children may lack an opportunity altogether because of limited resources distressed her. She used her senior thesis to explore the lack of diversity, specifically focusing on African American representation, in those who participate in outdoor recreation.
“This summer camp program has felt like a continuation of my thesis and has in many ways followed through on many of the solutions I researched in my thesis.”
So, what is Camp in the Community?
Camp in the Community is Whitney’s way to take camp out of the walls and woods where it usually lives and bring the activities, fun, and growth to underserved populations in a safe place at no cost. Children attending Camp in the Community can learn archery, do crafts, play Gaga Ball, and so much more. CITC is an important place where kids can be kids. They can let loose and be themselves in a way their daily lives do not allow. Another important part of camp is the opportunity to develop essential leadership skills. CITC allows young people the chance to explore the challenges and joys of leadership in a safe, welcoming environment. Staff members are there to give second, third, and fourth chances. The kids who come to camp can be successful, and that opportunity is not taken away from them despite mistakes they may make. CITC’s commitment to lasting change is reflected in the support network they create which stays even after camp concludes. The Junior Counselor Program was built to encourage kids within the communities to step up as leaders, and they work with other CITC staff to develop skills in areas such as- small group work, servant leadership, nurturing faith, and discovering natural strengths. Whitney and her organization have stretched the support network beyond the Junior Counselor Program too, and work with the churches they partner with to deepen relationships within the community. Local community leaders have the opportunity to then connect families with resources they may need, and enrich the lives of those in need which allows the work CITC did during the week to grow.
Whitney did much research to find the pockets of poverty in East Tennessee that would benefit from this kind of programming. She found the resources, local community members, organizations who would support the program, and the attendants even after Camp in the Community was over. Because of the success of the research-based model, CITC services have now expanded out into southwest Virginia to northern Georgia. CITC has grown tremendously since that first summer in 2011 when they served just 77 children. During that first summer, she brought camp into communities by partnering with only two churches. These churches invited CITC to use their spaces and provided necessary resources. Though it was an atypical setting, it still felt like camp to Whitney. The children had a great time and grew throughout the week. CITC uses a variety of games and activities to build a positive, encouraging community. Now, CITC serves 1,440 kids each summer between all their sites thanks to their partnership with the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church. Their continued work also allowed them to create a Junior Counselor Program, which has encouraged kids within the communities to step up as leaders and mentors and pair with the CITC staff.
We have similarities and differences, just treating each other with respect and really growing to love and care for each other… We don’t see that in a lot of places in the world right now especially, so we create a safe place where everybody feels welcome.
To learn more about Camp in the Community and find out how you can contribute, please visit their website- https://www.campinthecommunity.org.
The Maryville College community is truly fortunate to have Whitney as part of our esteemed alumni. Thanks, Whitney, for “doing good on the largest possible scale.”