Camp Ca-Pow sparks love and giving

  • Published: Monday, March 12, 2018

COLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri alumni Alyssa Roost, BHS ’16, and Matt Praiswater, BS ’15, met in 2016 when they worked as interns for Camp Ca-Pow (College Access-Planning Our Way), a program that helps middle school students explore career and college opportunities.

A year later they were engaged. Rather than set up a wedding gift registry with a department store or online retailer, they started a fundraiser on and asked friends and family to help them establish a scholarship for first-generation college students who attended Camp Ca-Pow.

“We had all the kitchen gadgets and household items we needed already,” says Alyssa.

Camp Ca-Pow encourages students to explore career possibilities that match their strengths. During the weeklong camp, participants take part in a variety of hands-on career exploration workshops and consider what type of training or education would be necessary to pursue those careers, says Rebecca Mott, director of Camp Ca-Pow. Each year, four to six interns donate their entire spring break to the program. Last year, interns gave nearly 400 hours to planning, marketing and carrying out Camp Ca-Pow, Mott says.

The participants also take field trips several central Missouri colleges to get a firsthand glimpse of life at different types of campuses. “It gets kids thinking about what their future might look like,” Alyssa says.

First-generation college students may struggle to find guidance on how to apply, attend and pay for college, she adds. “We try to give them an idea of what it takes to be successful.”

Camp Ca-Pow asks youth to explore their “sparks,” the passions and strengths that motivate them. They also identify their “sparks supporters”: the people in their lives who can help them reach their goals. “For the week of Camp Ca-Pow, we’re their ‘spark supporters,’” Alyssa says. “We encourage the kids to continue finding spark supporters in their own communities and families.”

One way to sustain a student’s spark is to ease the financial burden of getting an education. Alyssa, herself a first-generation college student, did not want to begin her post-college life with thousands of dollars of debt to pay off. She graduated one semester early and debt-free. Though she sometimes worked 30-50 hours a week while juggling a full course load, graduating without debt probably would not have been possible without a substantial amount of scholarship money.

The weekend after Camp Ca-Pow, Alyssa and Matt went on their first date—a hike at The Pinnacles, a scenic nature area about 20 miles north of Columbia. About a year later they returned to The Pinnacles, where Matt proposed. They looked into setting up a gift registry, Alyssa says, but they realized that they “didn’t need stuff.” Instead, Alyssa and her fiancé felt “called to give.”

The Praiswaters were married Sept. 3, 2017. Alyssa had a Camp Ca-Pow patch sewed to the lining of her wedding dress; Matt wore a Camp Ca-Pow T-shirt under his suit.

Alyssa now works in the youth services unit at Arthur Center Community Health in Mexico, Mo. Matt teaches agriculture at Mexico Public Schools’ Hart Career Center while pursuing a master’s in ag education.

So far they have raised about $3,000 and are hoping to raise $10,000 to establish an endowment. The scholarship will be managed by the Missouri 4-H Foundation in partnership with MU Extension and Boone County 4-H. For more information about donating to the scholarship, contact Rachel Augustine, director, Missouri 4-H Foundation, at [email protected] or 573-884-7641.

Camp Ca-Pow is a collaboration of the MU College of Education, MU Extension Youth and Families, Missouri 4-H and the MU Family Impact Center. For more information, contact Rebecca Mott at 573-882-2428 or [email protected].

Camp Ca-Pow 2018 is March 26-30. For more information, visit

Mizzou Giving Day is a daylong campaign to raise support from alumni and friends. Gifts made on Mizzou Giving Day—noon March 14 to noon the following day—have a bigger impact. When you support the area you love most about Mizzou, that school, college or program has the opportunity to earn bonus funds. For more information, visit

Caption: Alyssa Praiswater had a Camp Ca-Pow patch sewed to the lining of her wedding dress.
Credit: Courtesy of Alyssa Praiswater
Caption: The Praiswaters at The Pinnacles nature area the day Matt proposed to Alyssa.
Credit: Courtesy of Alyssa Praiswater

Writer: Curt Wohleber

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