MITCH CUNNINGHAM – GROWING HIS CAREER FROM EXPERIENCES LEARNED AT ONDESSONK
By Judy Blase Woodruff, CFRE
Mitch Cunningham learned about Camp Ondessonk from his father and uncles who were campers in the early 1970s. Mitch wanted to carry on the family tradition and became a mini camper in 2002 and a traditional camper from 2004 through 2006. He always attended during Coed I, because he really enjoyed the “brother-sister” units in the early 2000s. He appreciated the mix and getting to know more than just the campers in his own unit.
As a Counselor in Training in 2007, he was an Aquatics major. He said, “That should be no surprise, I was Boating Coordinator for several summers, and my name is written in the aquatics shed as ‘Lifeguard 4 Lyfe.’”
As a staff member for seven years, Mitch held a variety of positions. In 2008, he was, what was then called, a Rotator. His next year on staff, 2009, saw him as a member of the Aquatics Staff, then Boating Coordinator in 2010 and 2011. He was Daniel’s Unit Leader in 2012 – “Best by far,” according to Mitch! Finally, 2013 and 2014 saw him as Head Counselor.
When asked what accomplishment he is most proud of, he replies, “The thing I am most proud of is my role in creating the LIT program (I think it’s the OWL Program now). This was during my time as Head Counselor, when I worked with Jeremy Culpepper and Brian Croft to establish a more formal system for engaging with first-year staff members. We would meet daily as a group and would set up times for one-on-ones with each LIT to check in and process their experience. I learned so much through the perspectives that each of those LITs shared.”
When considering his favorite thing about Camp, Mitch states, “I am sure this is everyone’s answer, but it’s true – my favorite thing is the community of people that Camp provides. Many of my best friends were gained during my years on staff. I would also add that Camp let me be truer to myself, and was incredibly welcoming.”
The Lodge of Ondessonk & Tekakwitha holds a very special spot in Mitch’s life. He was inducted into Lodge in 2008, his first year on staff, and served as Lodge Chief (now Lodge Official) from 2012 through 2014.
After graduating from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, Mitch went on to Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., and earned a Masters in Genetic Counseling.
Now, living in St. Louis, Mo., Mitch is a Genetic Counselor. He states, “This is kind of a niche role in medical care where I help individuals and families understand and process how their DNA and family history contribute to their health and development. I work in Saint Louis seeing a wide array of patients and families, educating them on genetic risk factors, coordinating genetic testing, and counseling them on the results of their testing. The thing I love most is being able to work with families through often very complicated topics. I think I learned some of those teaching skills by explaining to kids how to row a rowboat.” He is responsible for designing this role for his hospital. He was able to curate the genetics program and is hoping to make it continue to grow and evolve.
Mitch would like to take the opportunity to formally thank and acknowledge some of the staff members who mentored him, inspired him, and helped him grow throughout his years on staff: AJ Wilkinson, Ryan Brummer, Megan Spruell, Mary Coats, Kyle Klues, Amy O’Shaughnessy, and Samm (Luckert) Burlingame – just to name a few.
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