Leadership Academy Program
Camp Vohokase Class of 2016 – Graduates of the Vohokase Leadership Program
When Ellijah McLean learned of an opportunity to apply to Camp Vohokase, the Light Foundation’s Outdoor Leadership Program, he thought it was tailor-made for him. The was really nothing like it, and that was the appeal. He says he had big aspirations to build his leadership skills and give back to kids “like himself” – growing up with a single mom in an at-risk environment outside Providence, RI. He knew he was lucky, with a mom who pushed him to think big and take the world by storm, but took the helping hand offered to reach those goals.
Attending his first year of Camp Vohokase in 2012, along with fellow classmates Rashad, DeNelson and Ethan, he thought he already knew a lot about leadership, having positioned himself whenever he could in school and sports to take on those roles. What surprised him, though, was his ability to be vulnerable, and ask for help from a team of mentors there to provide it. “I realized I didn’t have to be a superhero in all aspects of my life,” he admitted. “I also learned to have uncomfortable conversations – ones that were necessary for my social and emotional learning – with both my peers and with Matt and his team.”
Ellijah says it was a lot of the small components of the overall camp encounter – like sleeping in a yurt, learning how to shoot bows, or live in a truly rural setting for 10 days – that really made taught him valuable life skills. It was not what he expected, but now truly cherishes the natural camaraderie and consistency of the message that was paramount to the Camp’s overall mission. “Even though so many of us had different backgrounds and extracurricular interests – we had the experience in common. Knowing we had Matt and Nick and all of the other counselors to talk to, regardless of what tough times we were individually going through, was such a gift.”
He says the lessons he learned about integrity, character, conflict management and personal development are too numerous to count, but they all made him think hard about the type of man he wanted to be. “I really saw myself grow through the process. Matt, his family and his staff made sure to remind us often just how far we’d come – while also urging us to move forward.”
After graduation, Ellijah attended Bates College as a political science and sociology major, with the goal of getting into politics or becoming a consultant in government policy, education, or leadership. Since the pandemic has momentarily delayed those plans, he is back at his high school alma mater, LaSalle Academy, teaching, and putting to use so much of the wisdom imparted to him during his time as a camper.
“Even though so many of us had different backgrounds and extracurricular interests – we had the experience in common. Knowing we had Matt and Nick and all of the other counselors to talk to, regardless of what tough times we were individually going through, was such a gift.”
– Ellijah McLean