Each and everyone who comes to Genesee Valley leaves as a part of our family. That includes campers, staff … and even animals. That’s why we thought it was only appropriate to profile some of our staff alumni, who may have moved on from Genesee Valley, but will always have a place in our hearts!
Meet Kelly Hollifield, who worked with us at Genesee Valley for a year and a half, then came back in 2015 and is still with us today!
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I saw this quote recently on a card and it made me smile. I thought, “Hey, that’s what I do. That’s my job!” I love working as a facilitator at GVOLC, and I will tell you why:
Every day that participants take part in our challenge course curriculum, GVOLC makes a difference in people’s lives. We offer the opportunity for participants to reach past their comfort zones, and that’s where the real growth and learning happens. It’s magical. It makes an impact, an impression. Makes one think about their potential. About how their actions affect others.
We encourage leadership, foster growth. All these add up to helping people become better friends, co-workers, teammates, community members. We push people to believe in themselves, to imagine what they can accomplish, overcome, aspire to. These are powerful things. Simply put, GVOLC touches lives.
I returned to GV a few years ago, after an absence of about twenty years. I first worked as a facilitator after graduating from Towson University (TU) in the 90s. At TU, I was involved with Project Marj, an outdoor leadership program which had ties with The Valley, which ultimately led me to working there. I worked and lived on site for a year and a half. It was a powerful and rewarding time for me, as I became part of the very special community that is GV. I gained experience working with various ages and types of groups, and became confident in my facilitation and teaching approaches. The staff was passionate and committed to The Valley’s mission, and looking back, it’s clear to me, that GV was not only making a difference in its participants lives, but in the lives of its staff as well.
My experience enabled me to grow as a person as well as an educator, and helped to shape my career path. I continued to seek positions where I could work directly with people in a learning environment. I have worked at schools, group homes, and youth employment programs. I found myself returning to Maryland, and as good fortune would have it, back at GV. I was immediately welcomed back, and although the faces were new to me, the feeling of community remained, their commitment to mission as strong as ever, and the setting even more beautiful than I had remembered.
- Back to GV touching lives. How do we do it? We don’t use magic. however, we do have a bag of tricks. Tools. The largest one being our ropes course itself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed participants facing their fears head on, achieving what they thought was unachievable, and the sheer joy, pride, and new sense of confidence that often results. We utilize other tools as well – games, challenges, puzzles that we use to demonstrate the complexities of human interaction, and through these, what can be achieved, both individually and as a group.
- how to effectively solve problems, collaborate, listen, practice empathy, trust, demonstrate courage, leadership, set and accomplish goals.
- how we should treat one another
- how to learn and grow from our experiences
- how we can improve
- how we can be a productive part of our communities.
This is what GV has always been, continues to be, and I believe that differences are made every single day at The Valley.
How do I know that we make a difference at GV? It’s the fifth grader who realizes that it’s not as scary as he thought to make new friends. It’s the high school student who is put in a situation where she emerges a leader, perhaps for the first time. The adult group relating the outcomes of an activity back to the office, and understanding how they can apply these lessons to improve their work. The cancer survivor brought to tears in the midst of facing yet another fear as she readies herself to take that step off of the zip line platform. Sometimes it’s just a thank you, a high five, even a hug. Subtleties mostly.
As a facilitator, we may not get to see the lasting impact of our work here, as the participant waves goodbye and takes their experience home with them. But I know it exists in the memories, hearts, and everyday lives of our participants. And I am beyond grateful and proud to be part of this GV magic.
Are you interested in working with GVOLC? Apply for an open position here.