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Student Spotlight: Macayla Upright and her Love of Camp

As a Rowan County native, Macayla Upright was no stranger to Catawba College when it came time for her to decide where to go after high school. In fact, she can even recall sitting in the back seat as her mom drove through the college campus from a very young age.

However, her first real experience with the school came when she was 12 years old at a camp called C3, or the Catawba Conservation Camp, hosted by the Center for the Environment. “It was an all-girls’ camp that focused on learning about environmental issues and the solutions to those issues,” says Macayla.

She even got to stay in the Barger-Zartman Residence Hall for the week. At the camp Macayla got to analyze small critters in the preserve with Dr. Constance Lowery, learn about birds with Dr. Joe Poston, and go on trips to local places to put environmental issues into a real-life perspective. For instance, she remembers going to Harris-Teeter and analyzing the differences in “wild caught” and “fresh caught” fish right in the store itself. “I feel like [the camp experience has] all come full circle,” Macayla remarks as she even remembers meeting her current major advisor, Dr. Sue Calcagni, at the camp.

The C3 camp wasn’t the only time Macayla got to come to campus before becoming a college student, either. She was also a part of the Redesigning our Future National Environmental Summit for High School Students, first coming as a rising senior and then getting the rare opportunity to be a counselor as a rising college freshman. The National Environmental Summit is a five-day, four-night camp where students ages 14-17 get to stay on campus and learn about the environmental issues prevalent in our world today. The summit also trains the students in how to be a leader and to lead by example when it comes to environmental sustainability.

Dr. John Wear, executive director of the Center for the Environment, notes that the goal is to “help students understand that they can bring about positive change” in their schools and their communities.

Part of that training is helping them acquire skills they will need to orchestrate a project. “They have got to be able to bring others on board to get a concept from the drawing board to the real world,” Wear says. “So this segment of the summit helps them learn how to plan, communicate and mobilize an initiative so they can return to their schools armed with the skills they need to implement a plan.”

However, the coolest part of the summit is that it is programmed to be interesting for people of all talents and passions through the use of focus groups. Since Macayla likes to be outdoors and work with animals, she chose the focus group that allowed her to go out in the Stanback Ecological Preserve and catch turtles to study and tag. However, other focus groups study topics like writing a camp blog, philosophical reasoning and even theatre.

At C3 camp.

Macayla was able to become a counselor as a rising freshman because of the relationship that she was able to build with the Center for the Environment’s director of operations, Cathy Green. During her senior year, Macayla’s senior project required her to spend 15 hours doing community service with a non-profit organization, and she chose the Center for the Environment since she enjoyed coming to the environmental summit so much. During this time, she worked in the preserve helping create cages around aesthetically important trees to deter beavers from trimming them down and engaging in other preserve maintenance projects.

These camp experiences helped Macayla decide to major in Environmental Sustainability with a concentration in Natural Resource Management and to become an Environmental Steward. Although Catawba was not originally Macayla’s first choice, she ultimately decided to come here because “there is no place like the Center for the Environment,” and “there’s no place like the Ecological Preserve.”

High school students with an interest in the environment and sustainability have an opportunity to have an experience like Macayla’s by applying to participate in the 7th annual Redesigning Our Future National Environmental Summit slated July 11-15, 2017.  For details and application instructions, visit

02/15/17 by Guest Writer

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