Summer manufacturing Camp impacts the lives of students


By Meladi Brewer

GREENVILLE — Junior High students from all around Darke County explored manufacturing careers at the Darke County Summer Manufacturing Camp.

The camp is coordinated by Darke County Economic Development and hosts students entering seventh and eighth grades for a week to explore careers available to them through activities and tours with local companies. Campers learn through interactive topical challenges and onsite visits.

This year’s camp ran from July 17 – 21, and is the program’s fourth year after being started in 2019. Groups like Midmark Corporation, Whirlpool, Fort Recovery Industries, Edison State Community College, and JAFE Decorating took turns hosting the students and teaching them some of the core skills needed in life.

“I will tell you they made some pretty challenging candles. It would be hard to do on the production floor, and we would have to send it to our research and development lab to get them up and running,” Jacob Weaver with JAFE said.

He said despite the production design difficulty, it was “very neat and awesome to watch the students come up with and collaborate ideas off of each other in order to produce a very unique candle.” He said the process of watching them bounce ideas off of each other and working as a team was a rewarding experience in itself.

“Then to get them into our facility and show them what we do – they were spraying some parts, making paint, and playing with the robots. We really enjoyed having them there, and hopefully we can see some of you in the facility after you graduate,” Weaver said.

Through the camp, students have the opportunity to practice and grow their skills in communication, problem solving, and teamwork. It also allows students to see one of the many career paths they can take after graduation.

Each manufacturer took turns speaking to the guests during closing ceremonies about what they experienced with the students. For Whirlpool, they focused on identifying unsafe acts and conditions, and Fort Recovery Industries said they focused on quality.

Though the students learned a different skill or lesson at each manufacturer, every one of the manufacturers who hosted students this week came to the same conclusion, this program “is awesome and a great learning opportunity”.

Two students, Navaeh Lewis and Austin Singer came forward and proposed an idea for a Summer Manufacturing Camp 2.0 where ninth and 10th graders can still have the opportunity to continue on with the camp, as it has made such a big impact in their own lives.

“In previous years, we would go to the manufacturers later in the day, but we would want to change it and go to them first,” Lewis said.

She said this will enable the opportunity to come back, reflect, and then use what they learned at the manufacturers on their activities project. Singer then advised the audience, that the camp, similar to the current one, would give students the ability to look at careers they may be interested in.

It was proposed that the students would have to do a challenge for their final product using the skills and knowledge they gained from talking with the manufacturers. This challenge project will be voted on by the parents and/or manufacturers for a prize. The idea is it would challenge them more to “think like a manufacturer.”

Singer said they would like to expand their partnering manufacturing list in the future to better highlight more of a variety of jobs that are in the community.

“To sum it all up, camp is an amazing experience, and it is easy to make friends. It’s something we’d like to share with everyone,” Lewis said.

Towards the end of the closing ceremony, the students and members of Darke County Economic Development gathered together to hand out a special award to Tamala Marley. Marley is the Workforce Specialist at DCED, and she put a lot of time into making the camp what it is today. She will be retiring in November of this year.

The students and staff prepared a sentence each about their experience with her and the positive impact she had on their lives.

“Because you created space and care, I was able to open up more,” one student said.

Each student took a turn testifying to what they were able to get out of their experience with Marley. A lot of students said they were able to make friends, learn, and open themselves up to new opportunities. They all came to the conclusion that because of her, they have been able to have an amazing opportunity to learn and grow as people.

“Because you created space and care, I was able to express myself,” a male student said.

Another student told Marley that because she created space and cared, they were able to feel safe. By the end, there was no doubt just how much of an impact she and this camp have had on the students’ lives it had touched. The manufacturers even expressed their own gratitude as well.

“Because you created space and care, our company and employees were able to open themselves up to the wonderful experience of helping these young people to learn, grow, and explorer”

Mike Bowers, Director of DCED, addressed Marley himself saying she will greatly be missed.

“Tamala, because you created space and care, we’ve extended your contract to 2026,” Bowers joked.

Getting serious, he said that because she created space and cared, she impacted the lives around her. He told Marley to look around the room at all she had done with the passion she has for everything she does.

“The Best Space Creator Award is presented to Tamala Marley for allowing the people of Darke County to grow to their full potential,” Bowers said.

Marley thanked everyone for their kind works. She said all she can say is “she is so blessed to be a part of the community that she is a part of.” Marley addressed everyone saying they are blessed to have manufacturers willing and able to figure out a way to help the students any way that it takes.

“I’m just so grateful for these opportunities,” Marley said.

A special thank you was given to all the parents, grandparents, and guardians who were willing and able to bring their children to the camp every day. Another was extended to the Greenville City Schools and Superintendent Doug Fries for the use of the Advanced Manufacturing lab and providing transportation to tours. Heather Suerdieck with Inside Out Coaching was thanked for being the Camp Facilitator, Susan Ahrens for being the Camp Assistant, Mary Lee Moore for being the Career Tech Secretary, Edison State Community College, Mrs. Lori Hoover and the Interactive Media students at Greenville C-TEC were all thanked for their help and support as well.

Funding for the event was provided by donations through the Darke County Foundation, The Wet Tech Prep Region, and Edison State Community College.

“Tell your friends about camp. Everyone is friendly, they got great food, and you need to try it at least once,” Teagan Brock said.

For more information regarding Darke County Economic Development, visit

To contact Daily Advocate Reporter Meladi Brewer, email [email protected].

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