When I first heard of Jacob's Ladder, it was described as a dream that Margie and Aubrey Hall wanted to fulfill. That dream was to give youngsters (climbers) who had great academic potential, but who were at risk of not reaching that potential, the skills and ability to succeed. Creating a summer enrichment camp where climbers could take classes in mathematics, science, language arts, story telling, law, art, drama, foreign languages, and a myriad of other subjects was one of the goals, but these classes are only a portion of the camp. Other goals were to give the climbers a foundation in faith, an appreciation for physical fitness, and the ability to give back to their communities. Jacob’s Ladder reaches the whole child, giving them a foundation to be successful in life, opening their eyes to the opportunities ahead of them, and giving them a safe and welcoming environment in which to grow. Having the climbers return every summer for 4 or 5 years allows lifelong friendships to form.
Not only have I been a board member for years, but I’ve also taught classes at Jacob’s Ladder. The enthusiasm of these gifted learners is refreshing and delightful. One of my favorite classes was when we skyped with a group of 5th Marines who were in Afghanistan on the Fourth of July. To watch the climbers interact with these young men who were serving our country was the highlight of my summer! The climbers also boxed up care packages and sent them to Afghanistan. I am proud to be associated with Jacob’s Ladder.
I was a Jacob's Ladder Climber from 2001 to 2005, then worked as a Resident Advisor from 2010 to 2013. For over half of my life, JL has meant having a network of people who really care about my development and about me as a whole person. I went to camp that first summer already knowing I was smart; what I needed was to know that I was important and valued. The relationships and friendships I've formed and the lessons I've learned through my involvement with this program have made that more than clear to me. JL provided me with such a nurturing atmosphere, but also pushed me to step outside my comfort zone and reach for things I once considered out of my grasp. As a result, I write this as a graduate of Woodberry Forest School, a prestigious private secondary school, and a 2013 graduate of the University of Richmond.
I don't hesitate to say that I wouldn't be anywhere near where I am in life without the care and direction I received and continue to receive from people involved with Jacob's Ladder. I'm welling up as I write this review, because I truly believe that Jacob's Ladder saved my life. I now work with disadvantaged youths in inner-city Richmond full-time in large part because I want other kids to experience the love that I experienced through Jacob's Ladder. JL continues to make an impact on my life even today. In fact, I'm writing this review at the home of my first RA; 12 years later, he has become a father-figure in my life as well as a very close friend. In a few months, I will be a groomsman in his wedding. Without a doubt, Jacob's Ladder has given me more than I could ever repay, and I will be forever grateful for it.
While I didn't go through the Jacob's Ladder (JL) enrichment and advocacy program as a youth participant (referred to as "climbers" in JL), this organization has had a tremendous - I'd not hesitate to say "life changing" - impact on me. During my college years, I served as one of JL's summer camp Resident Advisors (RAs) who execute the day-to-day camp operations and create a nurturing environment for the climbers. I witnessed first-hand how the program changes these children -- empowering them to identify and use their talents, instilling in them attributes of empathy and compassion, and enabling them to recognize the value of education in attaining goals. This is the reason that I continue to volunteer with and support JL more than a decade after my introduction to the organization. I have learned so much more from the climbers than I ever could have taught them. Because of the multi-year, residential camp experience that is the cornerstone of JL's programming, deep and supportive bonds are formed among adults and participants, and these relationships continue to be a source of strength for those involved even after direct involvement in the camp may end.
Recently, I completed a Master's of Science in Youth Development Leadership - something that I would never have pursued without the JL experience and its many rewards. My final school project focused on the impact of JL in the context of youth self-efficacy/self-confidence. Survey and interview data collected as part of the study confirmed what I had observed over the years: JL has a significant, positive, and long-term effect on its young people's self-belief in their abilities to perform well academically, build relationships with peers and adults, regulate their emotions and cope with adversity. In this respect, JL is developing young people who can be tomorrow's leaders!
Jacob's Ladder has definitely shaped me into the ambitious, caring, and strong man I see myself becoming. Writing a review for one of the greatest things to happen to me at such an early stage of my life won't fully do this organization justice, as I have not entered all of the doors that it has opened for me. Jacob's Ladder crafted perfect social, physical, mental, and moral characteristics into me during those five years, and I blame nothing but the existence of such brilliant people. The bonds created during that month extend throughout a lifetime. I had a very long talk about my first semester struggles with a camp director I grew to love the first year I entered Jacob's Ladder. I can count on each and everyone involved in Jacob's Ladder to lead me in the right direction. College was not in my head until I nervously stepped foot on the attractive campus, and began a life-changing journey. The men and women that facilitate this organization possess the perfect formula for personal development. As stated earlier, I cannot simply state how Jacob's Ladder has fully helped me because I have yet to fulfill the shoes that I have been handed, and I will not be able to conclusively state the numerous positive outcomes of Jacob's Ladder and the lives they have enlightened.
Attending Jacob's Ladder was the best thing to happen to me. It opened unimaginable doors in my life. I was able to attend a private boarding high school and an elite university after graduating from Jacob's Ladder. These were opportunities that would have never happened without the guidance and support Jacob's Ladder provided. I am grateful for the things I've been able to do since my time at Jacob's Ladder, but I am even more grateful for the values Jacob's Ladder instilled in me. I learned about generosity, teamwork, patience, and faith. I learned how to be a better citizen of the world. I owe Mr. and Mrs. Hall much more than I could ever give them back in this lifetime.
I can honestly say that being a camper at Jacob's Ladder for five years has definitely been life changing. I love that camp and all the people associated with it; they are my home away from home and I am constantly learning things. I have experienced things that I would not even be thinking about- like rafting, foreign languages, hiking, and so much more-if not for Jacob's Ladder. Jacob's Ladder is a home away from home to and it makes it even more inviting to know that I am going away for the summer to spend a month with children from all over Virginia with the same mind set as me. I love being there and wish desperately to go back when I am in college to be a Resident Advisor. Jacob's Ladder is a positive influence in a lot of children's lives and I can't even think about my life without it being present.
Having supported Jacob's Ladder for almost twenty years, I can truthfully say it is one of the most effective and efficient charities I have ever seen. Working with funding that must be solicited every year, Aubrey Hall, the founder and executive director, and his wife Margie have piloted an organization that has made a difference in the lives of several hundred gifted but at risk kids over that period. Unlike many charities where it is uncertain of the outcome of their efforts, Jacob's Ladder has a verifiable record of its impact with over 90% of the JL graduates going on to college. It is our hope and challenge to continue the good work of Jacob's Ladder on into the future, a taskI am confident we will accomplish with the help of a committed and diverse Board of Directors.