Summer plans come full circle for student

The Baltimore Sun
Saturday, June 13, 2009

He's working at a park in Indiana where his father grew up

By Sarah Fisher

Even as classroom doors are locked and hallways swept for the final time this school year, many parents look forward to summer break as an additional opportunity to nudge their children into enrichment classes, summer camps and service projects.

This summer, Alex Caldwell, a 16-year-old sophomore at the Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Baltimore County, will be joining a crew with the Student Conservation Association, which protects and restores parks. Alex was assigned to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, which, by coincidence, was the very park that years ago pushed out his father’s boyhood home. Upon hearing the news of their son’s placement, his parents, Sue and Bob Caldwell, were thrilled that he would get the opportunity to learn a little Caldwell family history. Alex himself was thrilled that his assignment came with a beach.

On his last day of school yesterday, Alex said that before he signed up for the conservation crew he “didn’t have much to do” for the summer. In the past, Alex spent parts of his summers at various camps. But being that “16 is a bit old for summer camp,” his mother began looking for another fulfilling experience.

“It was more of my mom wanting me to leave,” Alex said. “I didn’t have much to do [for the summer]. But now I’m sort of excited about it.” Though Alex, who says he texts his friends “24/7,” will have to live without his cell phone for three weeks when he’s at the camp, which starts in July.

Bob Caldwell recalls when the National Park Service approached his family in 1978 when he was in his early 20s. At the time, his home in Indiana was in a neighborhood that was becoming increasingly troubled with crime, and his family was looking for a way out. The park service offered them that escape route by buying their house, which allowed the family to pack up and move to Denver.

“It’s been important to me that my family understand where I come from and how that shaped the person that I’ve become,” Bob Caldwell said. “You kind of are where you come from.” He hopes that his son’s experience will cement his relationship with that part of the country.

When asked what he thought about the coincidence, his son replied, “I wasn’t happy or sad or anything; I thought that it was pretty neat. I’d heard it was near a beach and thought that was pretty cool.”

With that growing anticipation, this summer will take Alex straight to his father’s boyhood backyard and on what his mother calls a family legacy. Best not forget the sunscreen.

Copyright © 2009, The Baltimore Sun