The last year at Tremont has been interesting, to say the least. With the health and safety of our students, staff, and community in mind, we greatly reduced programming in 2020. We canceled all our summer youth camps and our school programs, as well as the majority of our adult programs. We found new ways to adapt and push toward our goal of connecting people with nature, including the creation of our Weekly Wonder series, which brings the magic of exploring the outdoors to wherever our viewers are. Our community members supported us with unprecedented generosity, and we can’t thank you all enough for helping Tremont endure an unpredictable year.

You never know what you’ll find at Discovery Camp. Photo by David Bryant.

Now that campus has reopened and in-person programming is returning, Joey Terlizzi, a teacher naturalist at Tremont (and a familiar face for those who’ve enjoyed Weekly Wonder videos), shares their excitement. “There has definitely been a new life on campus as new staff members are hired and programs are starting back up.”

Though programs are taking place on campus, there are some notable precautions still in practice. While we continue to offer programs for youth, families, and adults, we’re limiting the number of registrants to allow for greater social distancing, particularly indoors. Meals have moved from family-style, gathering around a table to cafeteria-style, eating outdoors. Still, Tremont’s goal is the same – to connect people with nature – and the important work continues. 

After a difficult year for so many, our focus this summer has been on having fun. Joey shared some of their favorite moments from the summer.

“One themed dinner that I just really loved was the awards show,” said Joey. “The first time we did it, Gus wore a suit and a tie, and we all got together and came up with camper-specific awards like the ‘loyal friend award,’ the ‘future Tremont staff member award,’ or the ‘brightens your day award.’ It was so fun! I think the highlight of the summer was after we did that — one of the campers decided she wanted to do a staff award banquet, so the next dinner she stood up and they gave awards to all the staff. It was so good.” Joey received the best Scottish accent award.

In addition to having fun, our campers and staff have also experienced growth by taking risks and pushing themselves out of their comfort zones. 

“Another highlight has absolutely been the intern program through Fulton High School. Adrian and Janasia were our two interns, and we saw them go from trepidation about everything and trying to feel it out at the beginning of the summer, to how involved and comfortable they were with everything by the end,” Joey shared. 

Adrian, an Environmental and Community Leaders Fellow, helped lead discussions as a summer intern. Photo by David Bryant.

We recently published a blog about our summer interns, which includes a video highlighting their experiences. In the video, Adrian says “It’s actually fun because you’re learning and teaching at the same time. Everybody’s learning at one time, and we’re all together as one.”

“When I heard him say that,” Joey shared, “I was like ‘Yes! You got it! You got the whole thing!’”

As the summer winds down, there’s still plenty of ways to have fun and experience growth in our programs! We are excited about the return of our in-person Teacher Escape Weekends, which is an opportunity for school teachers to engage with each other and explore how to incorporate experiential learning into their curriculum. We’re also hosting our Autumn Brilliance Photography Workshop for photographers of all levels to learn to capture the magic of the Smokies. Also, stay tuned as we finalize next year’s schedule — we’ll be announcing our 2022 programs in the early fall.

“The very fact that there’s a future to talk about,” Joey added, “it’s exhilarating and it’s a comfort.”

Tremont continues to see financial impacts from the pandemic. Please consider supporting Tremont today. Make a donation.

Cover image by David Bryant.