Denyel Fonesca’s experience in the C5 Leaders program and as a camp counselor helped her become confident and college-bound, but even more it helped her discover her life’s calling – helping young people who need support to succeed.
After graduation from high school and C5 in 2014, Denyel enrolled at Westfield State College to pursue a degree in Psychology. Every summer she returns to work at Crossroads where she first discovered her passion for working with young people at the age of 16 while spending her summer as a Camp Mitton Apprentice.
When Denyel first met camper, J, she didn’t know how her relationship with him would impact her life. He was a tough camper, prone to tantrums and aggressive behavior. Through the guidance of her Crossroads mentors, she learned how to build relationships with a child in need of support like J, and it didn’t take long for Denyel to build a connection with him and become a valuable support system that he so desperately needed.
“We’re all different and people have different needs.”
“I enjoy working with the kids who need a little more attention… At camp I learned to sit and talk with people to approach situations differently and communicate with campers to learn what their needs are. It’s my passion, I want to work with kids like the campers at Mitton.”
Denyel has become a consistent mentor in J’s life. They stay in touch all year long through social media and texting which gives J another steady positive relationship he can count on and gives Denyel peace of mind that he’s doing well and making strong choices.
Over the years Denyel has watched J build self-esteem and learn to handle stressful situations with confidence. Going on this journey with him has helped Denyel define her future. It also helped her realize the full impact of her Crossroads experience. As a participant and then staff member she found role models and mentors who helped her become who she is today and develop goals for who she will become in the future. She wants to be able to do that for someone else and she is starting at Camp Mitton.
In addition to fueling her passion, working at camp has also given Denyel the opportunity to build skills and gain experience that will help her in her professional future including professional power skills, specialized expertise, and real-world opportunities to lead. This past summer Denyel was a lifeguard, as well as a counselor, and at times it was challenging to balance the two roles. It was through this challenge that Denyel learned to ask for help as well as the important skills of time management and team work. This summer she’s considering applying for even greater responsibility to work as the waterfront director.
While Denyel looks forward to every summer, the end of summer can be a difficult time. “When summer comes to a close, some campers don’t come back and that’s difficult when you get close and see them change. It’s bittersweet.”
Denyel’s experiences at camp have allowed her to push herself further than she thought possible, and has given her resilience, leadership skills and a passion for helping young people. Her goal is to someday be a counselor and work with young people in one-on-one therapy sessions.
We’re excited to see where Denyel’s career goes, and know that her time at camp has been precious. She has made a difference in the lives of many, and we are filled with pride to call her a staff member.
Camp Mitton provides a safe and supportive place for young people who have experienced trauma or crisis and are struggling to find healthy and positive ways to cope. The Mitton program delivers a sense of safety through a low staff-to-camper ratio, structured activities, and a consistent routine. That program couldn’t be delivered without dedicated and talented staff like Denyel.