Person of the Week
Nicole Fauteux: No More Back to School
As part of Camp Hazen YMCA’s efforts to keep kids safe and engaged when COVID protocols kept them out of the classroom, Nicole Fauteux was there to help students from nine different school districts stay on task. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Fauteux )
It’s coming to an end, but Nicole Fauteux has spent the fall doing something she never anticipated, going back to school. At 27 and a graduate of the University of New Haven, Nicky thought she was all done, but not only did Nicky go back to school, she went back as far as elementary school.
That is because Nicky was one of the two directors overseeing Camp Hazen’s program for children with hybrid school schedules, part-time in school and part-time on computers at home. On the days they were not physically in the classroom, the students brought their laptops to Camp Hazen and did school work, followed by outdoor activities, there.
Now that local school districts are planning to return to a full schedule, Camp Hazen Executive Director Denise Learned anticipates the program will be over by the end of October if the COVID situation remains the same.
According to Nicky, students from nine different school districts were participating in the program at Camp Hazen. It began with the school closings last spring. Initially the focus was only children of essential workers, but this fall the program was expanded.
“Once the hybrid program for schools was proposed, we tried to determine how Hazen might best serve our community. We can up with this idea to support our families, as we knew from talking with them throughout the spring and summer there was a great need,” Learned says.
The students were divided into manageable and COVID-compliant groups, each with no more than 14 students.
“We were always washing hands and using sanitizer,” Nicky says.
Nicky is one of the staffers who works year-round at Camp Hazen. She is also a program director during the summer but this past summer, there was no overnight camp, as all such camps were forbidden by the State of Connecticut. Hazen, however, did run its day camp.
The result of no overnight camp was a serious financial loss—more than $2 million. After saving on expenses, Camp Hazen is still looking at a loss of $1.1 million.
Nicky sometimes marvels that she ended up working at a camp. She wasn’t much of a camper in her own childhood. She had a brief day camp experience and went to one five-week overnight camp. She came to Camp Hazen when she saw a notice that Camp Hazen was looking for someone with broadcasting experience for a camp radio program.
Nicky, who grew up in Enfield, was a communications major in college and, in fact, had hosted her own country music show on the college radio station. She was also the content producer of the student-run talk show called the UNH Stable. The station interviewed students and entertainers brought in by the student center. The best known was D.J. and rapper Reverend Run.
Nicky answered the Hazen advertisement and got the radio job.
“And then I just stayed on,” she explains. “I love the outdoors and all the things that go on at Hazen.”
She is not the only member of the family employed. After she began to work, she told her brother about an opening on the maintenance team and he got the job. In fact, he was hired as part of the permanent, year-round staff before Nicky was. He got to be full time in 2015 and Nicky did not achieve that status until 2018.
Now she lives in her own two-bedroom cabin at Camp Hazen with two cats. From April to the beginning of October, there are three meals available to staff in the dining room. Now the dining room provides lunch and Nicky cooks in the kitchen in her cabin.
“We are our own little bubble,” she says, “and the Learned family is here and they have us over for meals.”
Nicky admits to a fondness for what she calls “cheesy jokes.” She provided a visitor with an example: How do you throw a space party? You just planet!
Now that the school-camp program is planning to come to an end, Nicky says much of the permanent staff’s time will be spent in planning for next summer. It will be an exercise in examining options. There is as yet no official word from government authorities on whether sleep-over camp will be permitted.
“We don’t know if it will be just day camp or overnight,” Nicky points out.
Nor is there any certainty on whether the cohort of counselors from overseas will be able to join the camp staff or whether COVID restrictions on international travel will prevent them from coming.
As she assesses the school-camp program that is now wrapping up, Nicky says the students weren’t the only ones who learned things.
“Now I appreciate what teachers do. It’s very eye opening,” she says.