QUINCY -- Clayton Dyer admits he didn't know what to expect his first year heading to Catholic Heart Work Camp.
He'd heard from a friend that it was fun, and he spent a week of the summer after his freshman year at Quincy Notre Dame outside doing projects to help others.
"After it's over, it's really satisfying to know you helped that many people in need," Clayton said. "I really enjoyed it and was excited to go back next year."
So were Clayton's classmates Hadley Klingele and Lauren Roberts.
Ten of the 114 students in the Class of 2019 -- Hadley, Lauren, Clayton and William Bickhaus, Hattie Kurk, Alex Mast, Crystal Middendorf, Nicole Obert, Peyton Sheffield and Miley Van Dyke -- will make four trips to the camp, wrapping up with a trek July 6 to 13 to Billings, Mont., after trips to Colorado Springs, Hartford, Conn., and Memphis, Tenn.
Having nearly 10 percent of the class that graduated Sunday afternoon commit to four years of workcamp came as little surprise because "this class has been very involved in campus ministries, very involved in Catholic Heart," said Mike Young, QND's director of Christian formation who heads all campus ministries.
"I wanted to further my faith from when I was in grade school to high school," Hadley said.
They've done painting and yard work, helped at a food pantry, sorted clothing donations, hauled slash, or burned wood, and planted trees after a devastating forest fire.
"It makes me realize how lucky we have it. We take a lot of things for granted that we really shouldn't," Lauren said. "Helping people who are less fortunate opens my eyes to everything I have in my life and makes me be more grateful."
Offering students the opportunity to attend Catholic Heart Work Camp is one way QND works to fulfill its mission to educate lifelong learners for lives of service.
"We hope students get an opportunity to grow in their faith through the service and the programming the camp puts on in the evening," Young said. "Also we often hear from students how much they're impacted by having the face-to-face interaction with people they're helping."
It provides them with some perspective that they maybe don't always see and definitely some sense of gratitude for the things that they have and are blessed with here in Quincy."
About 100 students, roughly one-quarter of the school's enrollment, make the trip each year. It's a large enough group that the underclassmen go one place for camp and the upperclassmen go another during the same week.
They don't balk at giving up a week of summer, sleeping on a classroom floor and usually working in the heat for a week. And they find a sense of satisfaction in working for others.
"The people you help are so grateful that you dedicated your time to helping them," Hadley said.
QND students must perform 10 hours of community service each school year. Only four hours can come from any one activity, so even though students spend about 40 hours working at camp, it counts for 40 percent of their requirement. Many students far exceed the requirement, with the 10 seniors combining for more than 1,750 service hours in their four years.
Working with students from other school at camps leads to lasting friendships. "I've made so many new friends from so many different states," Hadley said.
"I'm still in contact with people I worked with through the years. You become pretty good friends," Clayton said. "For people coming into QND, I'd encourage you to go at least once. People who haven't are really missing out on a lot of things -- fun as well as growing in your faith."
And while getting to know others, the students also learn more about themselves.
"I really love helping other people and seeing how you impacted their life. Seeing how much they appreciate it makes you want to continue doing this in the future," Lauren said.
A love of helping others will take Lauren and Hadley into health care fields -- exercise science for Lauren at the University of Indianapolis and health sciences at University of Missouri with a goal of working in occupational therapy for Hadley.
Clayton will head to John Wood Community College to major in business and fire science with plans to become a firefighter. Work at camp "makes me realize I like to work with others, so in a future job I want to work with others instead of being solo. I enjoy that kind of camaraderie," he said.
QND students have attended the camp since 1999, and Young said it's become such a part of the school's culture that very little promotion is needed to get students to sign up the first week of the school year.
"They're not just going through the motions. It's not just a secular trip," Young said. "It's tied into our faith and them truly embracing the idea of seeing Christ in the person you serve."