Scholarship Recipients Celebrate Their Summer Camp Experience

Jan 31, 2023 | Scholarship Stories

Every year, some of our scholarship recipients attend one of our Summer Camps. We heard from 4 of last year’s Camp attendees and wanted to share their experience: Debbie Meyer (Summer Camp in Illustration), Hallie M. Bertling (Summer Camp in Fiction), Jamie Ericson (Summer Camp in Fiction) and Sid Champagne (Summer Camp in Nonfiction.)

Debbie’s Story

Debbie is an author/illustrator from Texas who attended Summer Camp in Illustration with a General Scholarship. She said “Being chosen made me feel that I was worthy, that the committee saw value in my work and my eagerness to learn and grow as an author/illustrator.”

She also shared that “By attending, I learned new techniques and that there are so many ways to create for children, but as long as you put your heart into your work, you’re doing it right. Having someone in your corner can spark a fire inside that gets you to see yourself in a whole new way. I’m more confident after receiving encouragement from so many at Highlights.”

Debbie loves everything about being a children’s book illustrator and would like to encourage/inspire kids to do what they love, to not be afraid to try new things, and to never compare themselves to others because we all have value. She said, “there is no right or wrong way to create art!”


Debbie Meyer

Debbie Meyer

Parade Day Fun

Hallie’s Story

Hallie M. Bertling attended Summer Camp in Fiction with a General Scholarship. She has had adventures all over the world; when she’s home she leads a quiet, book-absorbing life in Greenville, South Carolina with her fellow artist husband.

“Getting the scholarship was EVERYTHING,” Hallie said. “I knew I was going to get to bring my work, get all the author-life advice I could handle and get career and manuscript feedback. I walked away with not just all that, but new writing buddies, new life-long friendships, and so many happy tears of gratitude for the safe space and encouragement not just to write the book, but that i was doing a good job, and need to keep going!”

Hallie shared her experience in a blog post:

About her work-in-progress, Hallie said, “My book features kids from a variety of backgrounds who all want different things (& experiences) from their performing arts middle school. It’s gonna help kids find their place in the arts, encourage them to find their encouraging supporters, find their own diverse passions, and find their creative-or-otherwise families.”

Hallie M. Bertling

Hallie M. Bertling

Hallie's notebook

Jamie’s Story

Jamie Ericson lives outside of Chicago with her husband and 7-year-old son. She writes middle grade fiction and attended Summer Camp in Fiction with a General Scholarship. She’s working on her first novel, and said that “Preparing my submissions in advance helped me to resolve some questions I had about my story, and attending Summer Camp gave me the chance to work on those breakthroughs and discuss them with my faculty mentor. I came away from the experience feeling confident that I’m heading in the right direction and determined to keep going. I also learned to let my curiosity guide me, to silence the adult, and to allow myself to wonder and daydream.”

“The scholarship made it possible for me to visit Highlights for the first time, and I found a community that was so inspiring, motivating, and supportive. I loved that everyone there was focused on writing for kids, and each time I sat down next to someone new, we had that in common.”

Jamie, far right, with Summer Camp friends

Jamie, far right, with Summer Camp friends

People holding word rocks that say serendipity and curiosity

Sid’s Story

Sid Champagne attended Summer Camp in Nonfiction with our Transgender and Nonbinary Scholarship for Picture Book Storytellers.  They are a Baltimore based illustrator, librarian, and children’s book enthusiast. Sid shared why the scholarship was meaningful: “I had spent the last handful of years working full time, while in grad school during the pandemic. In my free time I’d try to draw or write, but I didn’t have the energy for a sustained practice. Even once I graduated, I felt disconnected from the children’s book community and wasn’t sure where to begin. Being able to attend this retreat was such a gift. It reignited my passion for writing and art, and gave me the confidence boost I needed to get back to work.”

“I learned lots of techniques for jumpstarting ideas, writing stories, writing difficult stories, and a lot about the nonfiction market. I also learned / was reminded of just how supportive and caring this community is. I felt really cared for.”

That’s important for kids, too, Sid said. “Feeling like a part of a community, and seen for your dedication and interests is sometimes all you need to jumpstart your creativity. Both adults and kids sometimes feel like they’re not a part of the team, or they’re not seen for who they are, or that their interests aren’t worthy: demonstrating confidence, wonder, and enthusiasm can help them develop their own kind of confidence, enthusiasm and wonder.”

Sid Champagne's cabin

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The Highlights Foundation positively impacts children by amplifying the voices of storytellers who inform, educate, and inspire children to become their best selves.  Learn more about our impact.