SOMERSET -- Cameron Paradies spends her summers a little differently than the average teen.
The 16-year-old Somerset High School student spent four weeks in Alabama undergoing training at Camp Liberty, a military experience camp.
The camp is set up to mirror basic training, with the participants sleeping in barracks, following the same rituals and ceremonies and of course, training, while keeping in mind it is for teens.
“They model all of the program so it’s as close to a military experience as they can provide,” Paradies’s mother, Darcie Rochon, said.
This is the third summer that Paradies has participated in the camp. She first learned about it a few years ago from a Google search.
The camp includes basic training that puts the teens through repelling, marksmanship, academic and physical fitness tests, as well as a barracks inspection.
“So all these sets of standards you have to pass to get past the initial phase,” Paradies said.
Then this year Paradies earned a spot in the Cadet Ranger School after a grueling three-day selection process. As part of that program, she learned about the special forces techniques. The group learned how to complete missions, clear rooms and how to write up action reports.
“That was cool,” Paradies said.
Last year she took part in the cadet medic school, which trains teens in emergency responder certification.
Paradies has also visited the camp in the winter for a tactical course on outdoor survival. The participants spent every night out in the woods, and on the last day had to defend their camp from invasion by four former special forces members.
“It’s in the Alabama woods at night so it’s extremely realistic,” Rochon said.
The process teaches team-building, leadership skills, selflessness and communication, Rochon said.
Beyond the technical skills, Paradies said she has learned the importance of determination and perseverance.
“Just because this is hard, doesn’t mean I can’t do it. It’s not going to be fun to do sometimes, but the end is always worth it,” she said.
Paradies plans to enlist after high school, in either the Marines or the Army. She’ll be graduating early, at the end of her junior year this year, to start her military career. She’s interested in a possible medical path.
This camp has helped her feel good about that path.
“I feel like it’s prepared me a lot with some basic military knowledge, having an outlook on that way of life in the military in general,” she said.
It’s also helped her family prepare for the future. The camp has connected them with resources and support as Paradies looks to enlist. It’s also shown her family what it’ll be like when she does. Their communication with her while she’s there is limited, just like the military.
Paradies hopes to return to the camp for one more summer before her military career officially begins.
“I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had there and the people I’ve met,” she said.
She will be returning this month to help clean up storm damage.