Uplift is an annual week-long summer camp for teens hosted by Harding. At the end of the week, campers go back home to share what they learned, but the conversation about Harding does not always stop after camp. Many of those campers come to Harding for college because of Uplift, unintentionally making the summer camp a big recruiting pull for Harding.
Uplift Director Andrew Baker said he hopes campers, sponsors and staff all grow in their relationship to God, so the person who arrives to camp on Saturday is not the same person who leaves on Thursday.
“Uplift allows participants to see and experience Harding in ways that few other events can,” Baker said. “They are introduced to some of the things that make Harding a unique and special place which leads some to decide Harding is the place for them.”
Graduate assistant Ben Hansen has been working with Uplift for four years and has seen this pull firsthand.
“From our side, we don’t really think of Uplift as, ‘our number one goal is to get Uplift kids to Harding,’” Hansen said. “That does happen out of Uplift pretty often, and we have counselors all the time come in, and we say, ‘why do you want to work Uplift?’ and they say, ‘I had such a good experience, and that’s actually why I came to Harding.’”
Hansen said a study conducted a few years ago showed that Uplift was a top-three recruitment pull for Harding.
Senior Bowman Johnson has attended Uplift for a number of years, and he said the camp played a significant role in why he came to Harding.
“The counselors that I had growing up coming to Uplift made me want to come to Uplift,” Johnson said.
Johnson said there was always one counselor who impacted his life and made him want to return to Uplift next summer.
“I thought to myself,‘if there are counselors who work Uplift and go to Harding that are like that, I bet I would meet some people who are also like that,’” Johnson said. “It has proven to be true with the people that I have close to me.”
Johnson has also been an Uplift counselor every year he has been a student at Harding and has enjoyed giving back to the campers in the way counselors did to him when he was a camper.
“Counselors play a huge role in getting kids interested in Harding,” Hansen said. “Ninth, 10th, 11th grade, you’re looking up, and you see these … really good, moral people, who have a lot of fun, and you’re like, ‘you know what, I kinda want to be like that someday.’”