Rene Amond first signed up to chaperone a week of camp in 1975. She returned for 18 more years.
In 2022, Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center marked its 100th anniversary of providing educational and recreational opportunities for the youth of Louisiana.
Camping has been a fixture of the 4-H Youth Development Program since its earliest beginnings. The first permanent 4-H camp was built in West Virginia in 1921. Within four years, more than 1,700 camps had emerged across the U.S. serving more than 100,000 youth.
Camping has been shown to improve decision making, problem solving and communication skills, as well as helping to develop confidence, self-esteem and respect for others. Camp also provides the youth participating as counselors with the opportunity to develop their leadership and citizenship activities, bolster teamwork and foster the positive feelings associated with contributing to a larger purpose.
In 1922, the very first group of Louisiana youth camped under the majestic pines of the Kisatchie National Forest on land owned by local businessman, Rufus Walker. Since then, thousands of campers from every Louisiana parish have taken part in the transformational experience offered through the Louisiana 4-H Summer Camp Program.
Walker donated the land to the state in 1936, which paved the way for permanent improvements to be made. Two years later, the Works Progress Administration of Louisiana, arising from President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, began construction of bunkhouses, a cafeteria, open air pavilions and other permanent structures. Many of these still stand today, including the arts and crafts building, educational building, Greek theatre, main office and dance pavilion.
Paul Coreil, who served as the Louisiana State University AgCenter’s vice chancellor and director of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service from 2001 to 2013, recalled his time as a camper in the 1960s.
“Everybody wanted to be in 4-H. The camp was highly attractive to us,” Coreil said. “Being independent of your parents and learning about things that you could do with hands-on, experiential learning, [it] helped build confidence, responsibility, and practical life skills.”
By the late 1970s, a series of capital improvements were started at the camp including all new bunkhouses, a large multi-purpose building and a large pool. Another open-air pavilion was built to support increasing interest in the camp and the rising popularity of the Louisiana 4-H Shooting Sports Program. Eventually, a permanent on-site staff was hired to continue programming efforts throughout the year, and seasonal staff were hired in the summer months to improve program quality and consistency.
Today, Camp Grant Walker serves more than 3,500 youth each summer. The camp also offers spring and fall programming including field trips for school groups, weekend specialty programs and event space for outside groups to hold professional workshops, reunions, weddings and corporate retreats.
Christine Bergeron, the current camp director, regularly hears positive feedback.
“It is often that when I meet individuals around the state, and they find out that I am the camp director at Louisiana 4-H Camp, they cannot wait to tell me their stories about their time spent at camp during their youth,” Bergeron said.
To learn more about the Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center, visit www.lsuagcenter.com/grantwalker or contact your local parish 4-H agent.