LEWISBURG, Pa. – Continuing an ongoing relationship with the town of Mount Carmel and the Mother Maria Kaupas Center, Bucknell University recently partnered with the Mount Carmel Area School District to conduct the 2017 Kaupas Summer Camp. The camp, in its second year of existence, included instruction from Bison Athletics teams in the sports of tennis, basketball, football, track and field, wrestling and field hockey.

“We would like to thank all of our partners, including Steams (CSIU 16), The Mother Maria Kaupas Center, and Bucknell University,” said Pete Cheddar, the junior high principal at Mount Carmel. “Many of the campers had never been on a college campus. The most amazing part was having our students come back to us asking questions such as ‘What kind of grades do I need to get into college?’ or ‘I learned about a college preparation program while at Bucknell and it motivated me to set a goal to go to Bucknell or another college in the future.’”

The camp included 16 days of activities from June 19-July 13. It opened with the campers working with Bucknell’s championship men’s and women’s basketball coaching staffs and closed with a field hockey experience with 10th-year Bison head coach Jeremy Cook.

“We had a great time. It's a lot of fun for the coaches and some of our local student-athletes to promote our sport,” Cook said. “We really had some fun with some kids that might not otherwise be exposed to field hockey, even though the district is geographically right in the middle of some great areas for our sport. I think it's also a great opportunity for Bucknell to show off what amazing student-athletes we have and really impress upon these kids that through being engaged and working hard, an education at a place like Bucknell could be a realistic goal worth pursuing.”

In the spring of 2015, Bucknell formally opened its interdisciplinary Coal Region Field Station in the Mother Maria Kaupas Center, a former convent located in Mount Carmel. Bucknell has many longstanding staff and faculty ties to the area, most notably Father Marty Moran, Bucknell's former Catholic chaplain and current pastor of Divine Redeemer Church in Mount Carmel. Father Moran facilitated Bucknell’s partnership with the center, which serves as a home base for student and faculty research, field work and community service efforts that connect Bucknell to its easterly neighbors.

A once-thriving borough in the heyday of anthracite coal mining, Mount Carmel and many other nearby Coal Region towns have fallen on hard times economically over the last several decades. The Bucknell community has taken a keen interest in reviving these communities while celebrating their past.

One of the first athletics programs to visit the area was swimming and diving. Coach Dan Schinnerer and his men’s and women’s student-athletes conducted a free swimming clinic at Mount Carmel Area High School last winter. Additionally, a department-wide, student-athlete canned food drive benefitted the Kaupas Center food pantry.

Last January, as part of a year-long “Coal Collections” series on campus, a panel titled “Athletics in the Anthracite Region” was held in the Weis Center. Bucknell Athletics Hall-of-Famers and Coal Region natives Clifford “Mickey” Melberger ’61, Pat Flannery ’80 and Jennifer Yuengling ’93 were among the featured speakers. 

Bison Athletics upped its involvement even further with increased volunteer participation in this summer’s Kaupas Camp.

“Working with the kids from the Kaupas Camp was the most fun I've had this summer,” said Rebecca Helt, who is set to begin her 21st season as the Bison women’s tennis head coach. “They loved getting to experience tennis and the fun games we played. I appreciated how eager to learn and enthusiastic they all were. It was a blast.”

The campers were able to work with student-athletes from their specific area. That included a former Mount Carmel track and field standout entering her senior season at Bucknell.

“The campers were very enthusiastic about the track and field portion for those two days, and I believe promoting our brand to the local community is a very important part of our program,” said Bison track and field head coach Kevin Donner, who led the women’s team to a sweep of the cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field Patriot League titles this past season. “It was also great that Mount Carmel graduate and current member of our program, Alison Varano '18, worked the camp. She is a great role model in the MCA community.”

In addition to the athletic programs provided, the University offered alternative activities for campers with other interests. Those included GIS, river conservation, filmmaking, and garden/greenhouse activities.

“The camp also had community service opportunities, including the cleanup of cemeteries and playgrounds, and visiting local nursing homes,” Cheddar said. “It met the goal of a well-rounded experience in education, service, athletics, and fun. We appreciate the kindness and time spent with the students and the Bucknell staff.”