GREENBUSH — This week Trek Tech Camp campers will focus on a valuable life skill they often think is out of reach: cooking. 

Students with vision impairments from throughout the Four States have come together at Greenbush Camp and Retreat Center. At the center, they are participating in Trek Tech Camp organized by the Midwest Low-Vision Technology Center, a Joplin-based nonprofit that works with families and educators to ensure that students with vision impairments have the tools they need to succeed.

“Most of these kids have never been in a kitchen and have limited exposure to sharp knives, ovens, stoves, anything like that, very seldom are they allowed to do that,” said Calvin Churchwell, founder of the Trek Tech Camp. 

The camp is for students who are “academically high” and physically active who “want a physical, mental and social challenge,” Churchwell said. Each year’s theme is built around a new challenge, life skills they need to know, Churchwell said. 

With the help of the Greenbush culinary team and low-vision experts, the campers are learning safe cooking skills this week. The will also tackle a number of challenges patterned after the Food Network show "Chopped", culminating in a bake sale and a thank-you brunch served to camp staff.

On Monday, they were taught how to chop food and how to measure temperatures on the stove. Throughout the rest of the week they will learn how to make grilled cheese sandwiches, paninis and cupcakes. 

Along with the cooking challenges they will also participate in traditional Greenbush camp activities such as canoeing, fishing, and team-building challenges on the high and low ropes courses.

Austin McCulley, of Clinton, Arkansas, went to the camp for the first time last year, during which he learned how to use power tools and he built a cat tower. McCulley signed up right after last year’s camp was over, ready to go to camp again. 

“I had a really nice time last year and I learned a lot of new things and met a lot of cool people,” he said, “it was just a lot of fun.” 

McCulley doesn’t help too often in the kitchen at home or school, but he’s been wanting to learn how, he said. At the camp, it will be the first time for him to use most of the tools in the kitchen. 

“I think it’s interesting, I like the topic, I think it’s going to be fun to cook something,” he said. “Learning how to cook anything would be fun and useful.” 

Mia Perry, of Frontenac, has been going to the camp since the very beginning, the camp began six years ago. 

“I’ve made a lot of friends here and had a lot of fun experiences with different projects,” Perry said adding, this year she’s nervous and excited, “I don’t quite trust myself with knives yet.”

Most of all, Perry said she’s excited for her family to try the food she will be making for the thank-you brunch. 

“My family has never really got to eat the food I make so I’m excited about that,” she said. 

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.