‘It’s Magic’: Camp Huntington Summit Brings Students Together

Camp Huntington on Raquette Lake is the place to be.

Just ask the Rise Center for Success staff facilitators and students who took part in the Partners in Transition Summit this summer.

Partners in Transition joined with SUNY Cortland this past June for the fourth time to create a transformative learning experience for students from Clinton, Essex, Franklin and St. Lawrence Counties.

Through two four-day, three-night camps, students with disabilities are given the opportunity to develop essential soft skills tailored to meet the demands of the modern employment landscape. When all is said and done, students with disabilities are empowered for employment success.


Students, ages 14-21, are immersed in a multitude of activities that emphasize communication, teamwork and collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking, time management and organization, professionalism and work ethic, networking and relationship building, and emotional intelligence.

Through interactive workshops, group exercises and real-world simulations, campers grow together and form a support system around each other.

“They are forced out of their comfort zone and into a situation they have no familiarity with by attending the camp, so that’s where we actually see the most growth from the students,” Rise Center for Success Coordinator of Transition Programs Tonya Robinson-Mayer said. “The kids’ ability to advocate with themselves and be comfortable in unfamiliar scenarios improves exponentially.”

Camp Facilitators are educators from component districts as well as Rise Center for Success staff.

“We are educators, and that’s how we approach our time with the students,” Robinson-Mayer said. “It’s a chance to learn, and we are there to supervise but also promote those learning opportunities.”


At the core of trips to Camp Huntington lay three key elements — personal growth, resilience and overall well-being.

Hidden away at a location accessible by boat, Camp Huntington offers a secluded environment where campers can focus on themselves while forming lifelong connections with fellow campers.

Circle-up conversations are a great starting point for students to express themselves while also allowing fellow campers to hear how each other handles their disabilities and personal challenges. These conversations combined with recreational activities and casual interactions during meals throughout the day as well as evening campfires only bolster the summit opportunities.

“When the kids have each other as sounding boards and the chance to talk with each other, they can hear those stories and empathize with each other,” Robinson-Mayer said. “There’s a new trust level they establish. The compassion and empathy they feel for each other when they realize they are not alone is remarkable.”


There are so many ways staff members managed to describe camp successes, but one word is constantly used by all attendees — magic.

“I heard about the stories and how it’s magical before my first trip,” Rise Center for Success staff member Suzie Chrisman said. “I figured I would go because of how great things sounded, and once I was there, it all clicked. I understood. The kids are all making friendships. They want to stay by the time we need to leave.”

When camp concludes, students leave feeling more confident with a positive outlook on life. Doors open to new opportunities and self-advocation. The challenges of the real world
seem more manageable, and career options in the modern workplace blossom.

“Simply said, it’s magic,” Robinson-Mayer said. “That’s the word to use.”


Read more 2023-2024 Success Stories here.