A story of hope in Camp HillPublished 1:59pm Tuesday, June 26, 2012
By A.J. Watson, Outlook Staff Writer
Another Saturday, another story.
That was exactly what I thought when I woke up last weekend.
Pulling my weight in the newsroom, I decided to take a co-worker’s weekend shift, and as a consequence, I covered Camp Hill’s community project.
I came in the office promptly at 10:12 a.m. – we journalists are an expedient bunch – grabbed a camera, my notepad and a couple of pens, just in case.
The windows were rolled down, my arm was hanging out of the window and the relaxing musical melodies of Carlos Santana were ringing from my speakers.
As I entered the Camp Hill community, I saw Lyman Ward Military Academy.
“Wow, a howitzer is looking right at me,” I thought. “This would be the perfect place to hide out during a flu pandemic.”
I drove past North Main Street in Camp Hill and saw a congregation of people – I sniffed. The smell of barbecue and news permeated the air.
I parked right off the main drag, threw my sunglasses in my passenger seat, wiped my brow and made my way to the industrial strength utility trailer that was being used as a stage.
“I was born here, I went to school here, in Camp Hill,” is what I heard as I approached.
After I snapped a few photos I looked for a place to escape the blanketing heat – the library.
As I congratulated myself on finding shelter, I looked around and saw some of the boldest photography I have ever seen.
Strong, weathered, powerful faces looked me, almost intimidatingly in the eye.
As I stood with my mouth half open, a man in a red shirt with a Canon strapped to his arm approached me.
“Uh oh, he spotted my Nikon,” I thought.
“Pretty good, huh?” he said.
“Yeah, it’s powerful.”
“Antonio did it,” he said, pointing to the 16-year-old with a Canon in his hand.
“Great,” I said. Let me get my first interview out of the way, I thought.
While we were making small talk on the way to a quiet place in the back of the library, he told me some of the things he learned during the project.
“Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, basic photography stuff,” he said. We had something in common.
“Yeah, me too – that’s awesome,” I said. “We’re learning the same things, except I’m six years older and I’m paying thousands of dollars for it.”
That’s when it hit me – Camp Hill and Pacers Inc. are on to something.
Speaking with Jack Shelton and Jean Mosley of Pacers Inc., I learned that developing alternative skills was the key to success in forgotten rural communities.
According to personal accounts, the closing of Edward Bell put the community in a bind, but judging by the community strength, hopeful atmosphere and fruit sown by the younger generation of Camp Hill on Saturday, there’s obviously something deeper.
The ingenuity of the program was ingenious.
If Camp Hill can begin technical programs and produce welders, electricians, carpenters and mechanics to create businesses, they’ll be all right.
After Jean Mosley told me “this is just the beginning” during our interview, I believe her.
Watson is a staff writer for The Outlook.