Kids smile for the camera

The Schmid Elementary School sign

Kids engaged in exercises

Sidney James Nakhjavan smiles with a student

Auburn's Camp iCare has 'incredible impact' at Chicago school

Teacher: AU present at Schmid 'every single day'

By Jack Smith

When she first heard about the philanthropy camp called Camp iCare, Quinlan Matthew wasn't sure how relevant it would be for Schmid Elementary.

The 2nd grade teacher at the Chicago school only knew her students would be excited about anything organized by Auburn University.

"Auburn is their favorite place on earth," Matthew said. "They are obsessed with Auburn and the culture. They look for any connection to the school."

Now they have another Auburn connection heading into the new school year, as several dozen Schmid scholars recently spent a week of their summer attending Camp iCare.

"I think we've made an incredible impact
in Chicago thanks to (Director of Athletics)
Jay Jacobs. He believes in making dreams
come true, and he believes in the scholars
from Schmid."

- Sidney James Nakhjavan

The camp was taken on the road to Chicago by staff and students with Auburn's Early Learning Center and the Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies, who are program partners in the camp.

Camp co-founder Sidney James Nakhjavan said the week at Schmid Elementary, which was funded by Auburn Athletics, was everything her team hoped it would be.

"To be able to do Camp iCare with our family here at Schmid and to end the summer in this location has been phenomenal," Nakhjavan said. "I think we've made an incredible impact in Chicago thanks to (Director of Athletics) Jay Jacobs. He believes in making dreams come true, and he believes in the scholars from Schmid."

Impact is a fitting word to describe the action-packed week in Chicago, which featured an impressive roster of guest speakers with strong Auburn ties.

Auburn Trustee and attorney Liz Huntley connected with the campers in a compelling way by telling her powerful story of overcoming adversity and abuse to become a successful attorney and author.

Auburn Athletics icon and former Olympian Reita Clanton shared how her "outrageous dream" came true because she never let her circumstances limit her vision. Former Auburn football player and Chicago resident Nosa Eguae returned to the school he's visited several times with a simple message: "Be available and give back."

Another highlight of the week for the Schmid scholars was that two members of the Camp iCare team who added "the human touch" are also Auburn student-athletes. Football player Montravius Adams and veteran soccer player Alyse Scott were both a part of Team 360. Adams served a practicum with the Cary Center this summer, while Scott served an internship at the center.

Adams and Scott took part in every aspect of the camp, from teaching portions of the Auburn Creed and starring in skits to entertaining the young campers on the playground.

'Philanthropy means love'
The guest speakers are a big part of the Camp iCare program, which is designed to spark children's imaginations, encourage compassion and teach the need to be money smart while practicing philanthropy.

"Philanthropy is a big word, but it's really simple," Nakhjavan told the Schmid scholars. "Philanthropy means love."

Nakhjavan encouraged the Schmid scholars to show their love for others by discovering their gifts and sharing them with the world.

She asked a poignant question of the campers that's always a part of the challenge at Camp iCare, which served more than 300 youth this summer alone at 12 locations throughout East Alabama, including schools and non-profit organizations in Lee, Macon and Chambers counties.

Nakhjavan asked, "Who are you and why are you here?"

Camp iCare co-founder Sharon Wilbanks challenged the campers to use their "time, treasure, talent and trust" to help others.

'Priceless experience'
Matthew, whose second-grade class produced last year's college week video that led to the school's special connection with Auburn, said Camp iCare turned out to be another priceless experience for Schmid's scholars.

"When I first heard that Auburn wanted to do Camp iCare here, I was a little skeptical," Matthew said. "But I've realized it's not just about having money and giving it away. It's about a lot more than that. It's about helping them find their own treasures…their time and their talent. That's priceless."

Matthew said she was touched that students as young as the first grade came up with ideas to curb violence, cure cancer and stop bullying when encouraged to think about the issues that were important to them.

"That's pretty amazing and perceptive for someone who is only 8 years old," she said.

Nakhjavan said she knew Auburn and Schmid had a special bond ever since she learned Jacobs, AU Director of Public Affairs Brian Keeter and Aubie traveled to the Windy City to join forces with Bo Jackson in extending a personal invitation to Matthew's class to come to Auburn.

Spending a week in Chicago showed Nakhjavan that the school's relationship with Auburn is "pure, genuine and real."

"Sometimes in life you come across rare people and places you just really resonate with and you share values with at a deep level," she said. "When I came here and saw Schmid's core values like respect and integrity and hard work, I learned that we are such kindred spirits. This is our family. There is a genuine closeness here and I think it goes back to those shared values."

College of Human Sciences Dean June Henton also made the trip to Chicago. She spent several days on campus getting to know the Schmid scholars and teachers, who now plan to use the Camp iCare curriculum for future academic units.

Henton said she was delighted to see the College of Human Sciences become a part of Auburn's one-of-a-kind relationship with Schmid.

"Schmid is about inspiring its scholars to follow their dreams and to believe that anything is possible if you work hard," Henton said. "This unique relationship between Schmid and Auburn is a concrete example of kids being rewarded for their hard work – learning about Auburn, aspiring to attend, and being embraced by the Auburn family."

One year later
It was fitting that the week at Schmid ended with what may as well have been a birthday party. On Camp iCare's final day, members of the Chicago Auburn Club hosted an ice cream party for the campers and their families.

It's been just over one year since the video that started it all went viral and blossomed into an unlikely connection between the two schools that are 700 miles apart, but closely connected at the heart.

Keeter said it has been heartwarming to see the entire Auburn Family so eager to become a part of the bond with the Chicago school, from the Cary Center's recent work and the K-12 Outreach office's donation of books and items that now occupy an entire section of the Schmid media room, to many alumni who have also contributed.

"It's been exciting to see the relationship with Schmid continue since that special day in Chicago last summer," Keeter said. "Jay Jacobs was the spark that got it going. He saw the tremendous impact it would have on some great kids who thrive on encouragement and support."

The end of Camp iCare and the ice cream party was a chance for Matthew to reflect on what Auburn has come to mean to the scholars from Schmid.

"When I tell you they talk about Auburn every single day, I'm not exaggerating," she said. "They are always wearing their Auburn gear and cheering for all the Auburn teams. Auburn is always present at Schmid, every single day."