Coach Jenn founded Camp PAL in 2011. After years of experience as a summer camp counselor, a deep commitment to the neighborhood she grew up in, and a passion for youth development, she wanted to create an educational, diverse, and most importantly, fun summer experience here in Rogers Park. The creation of Camp PAL was particularly special for Coach Jenn, as she worked with her dad, Rob MacKenzie, Camp PAL’s business partner. Under Coach Jenn’s direction, Camp PAL has expanded its influence in the community and developed an action packed curriculum for campers of all ages.Coach Jenn holds a Ph.D. from Northern Illinois University in Educational Psychology and is currently an assistant professor of Kinesiology and Physical Education at NIU. There, she is also the assistant director of the Physical Activity and Life Skills group, an organization that conducts educational research, provides consultations and program evaluations, and trains practitioners and scholars to develop youth development programs in school and community settings around the world. Additionally, she has extensive experience with several youth programs in the Chicagoland area as well as internationally (Belize, Sri Lanka) that specialize in life-skill building for at-risk youth. Coach Jenn has spoken at a variety of national and international conferences and has over 18 published academic articles in the area of positive youth development through sport. Her favorite camp activities are Fitness Friday, yoga, and anything teambuilding! If you are looking for a different kind of summer camp, Coach Jenn would love to hear from you at email@example.com
Position: Associate Camp Director Coach Jamie is an alum of St. Scholastica Academy in Rogers Park and in 2010 graduated from DePaul University with a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education and Art History Minor. Upon graduating, she received her Illinois Teaching License with Special Education Endorsement. Additionally, she holds her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from National Louis University with Teacher Mentor Certification. She also earned an Illinois Principal License, completed the National Louis University McCormick Center for Education Taking Charge of Change Early Childhood Leadership Program and numerous other certifications in early childhood education and safety.Coach Jamie has 10 years of classroom experience teaching students from toddlers to first grade. She is currently a preschool teacher at the School for Little Children in Evanston, a program serving the youth of Evanston, Skokie, and Chicago. In her classroom, Coach Jamie teaches her students life skills through play-based education. She is passionate about environmental responsibility and helps her students learn to be kind members of society.Coach Jamie loves working to make Camp PAL a place that develops youth socially, emotionally, and physically and honors the diverse culture of the community she grew up in. She looks forward to seeing returning campers and meeting new camp families, as well as working with camp staff to ensure that summer is safe, successful, and fun.
Position: Business manager
Call him coach Jenn’s Dad! Rob has 40 years of professional business experience that has included corporate training, development, marketing, and sales. He likes everything outside in all weather – especially if it involves water or a barbecue grill! One of his best experiences was serving on the Board of St. Scholastica Academy (SSA) where he witnessed firsthand the extraordinary transformative process that occurred in an all-girls high school staffed by teachers that were inspired by SSA values, mission, and the venue of single gender education. Helping at Camp Play-A-Lot gives him the same sense of fulfillment. He is inspired by the role life skills play in making a better world. His job at camp is to take care of the business side so that our great staff can just have fun teaching personal and social responsibility through playing a lot with the campers!
Yara holds a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from Northern Illinois University and an Illinois Teachers Certification in Physical Education. Having taught physical education at Belding Elementary, a Chicago Public School, she now worked in the CPS corporate office at a PE policy educator. Youth development, and using the Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility Model is her specialty. She believes that physical education is the perfect tool to develop youth into responsible members of society. Recently, she received a prestigious alumni award from Northern Illinois University for her work in the Chicago Public School District. Her role at camp is to contribute to the development of new curricula related to sport and play, and come guest coach each summer!
Rico has been with Camp Play-A-Lot as their Fitness Friday Coach for several years. He is currently a certified personal training and the Founder/President of Healthy Heart Movement on Chicago’s north shore. He serves over 30 clients in the area from the ages of 10-75 years old. He is committed to motivating and inspiring people of all ages and especially loves to work with kids to see them grow and lead by example through active and healthy lifestyles. His hobbies include working out, playing basketball, and most importantly taking his 6 year old daughter to the park.
Coach Liam has been with Camp PAL for 3 summers. In 2017, he graduated from St. Ignatius College Prep High School, where he served as co-captain of the varsity volleyball team, played in the honors percussion ensemble, and was a member of the National Honor Society. He attends Xavier University he majors in Social Work and participates in the University Scholars Honors Program. He plans to pursue social work in a high school setting and is passionate about working towards social justice.
Coach Liam loves walking down the street from his home to Camp PAL and working to better Rogers Park and Chicago. He enjoys working on the PAL team and seeing what unique skills and talents each coach brings to camp. His favorite camp activities are soccer, the talent show, and “decathlon.”
Coach Elizabeth is a long time Camp PAL counselor. She is a Rogers Park native and grew up just down the street from our campus at Rogers School. In 2016, she graduated from Loyola Academy High School and is currently a student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign working towards a degree in Speech and Hearing Science. At UofI, she is a member of Illini Service Dogs, a volunteer organization that trains mobility service dogs to be placed with individuals with physical disabilities. She also served as a Morale Captain for the Illinithon Leadership Team, working to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network and St. John’s Children’s Hospital.
Coach Elizabeth plans to continue her education in graduate school to eventually become a Speech-Language Pathologist in a school or clinical setting. She is passionate about helping children improve their language, articulation, and social skills. Prior to joining Camp PAL, Coach Elizabeth has worked as a nanny and lifeguard and loves spending summertime outside, swimming, and playing games.
Coach Kelly has worked at Camp Pal for longer than she can count (tehehe!). She is currently a student at Loyola University where she is pursuing a degree in Secondary Education and English, and has made the Dean’s Honor Roll every semester. She hopes to become a high school English teacher after graduation.
Prior to joining Camp PAL, Coach Kelly served as a lead counselor and lifeguard at Camp Tekakwitha in Williamsburg, KS. As a future educator, she believes learning can happen anywhere and is excited to make learning new things fun at Camp PAL.
Camp Staff Alumni
Check out these exceptional staff who were with us for years and remain connected to Camp PAL
Coach David holds the record for longest running camp counselor at PAL. We was with Camp PAL an astonishing 8 years! He recently graduated from Valparaiso University with a degree in Criminology and plans to pursue a career as a Chicago Police Officer and eventually work as a federal agent with the FBI, DEA, or US Marshall. Thank you for your years of service! We will miss you!
Coach Malina worked with Camp PAL for 5 wonderful summers. Known for her work with the Little PALs, she brought energy, patience, and some sweet dance moves to our team. Since graduating from DePauw University (Indiana) with a degree in Biochemistry, she now works at a medical research lab and hopes to go back to school to pursue pediatric medicine. We can’t wait to someday celebrate Dr. Coach Malina’s success and commitment to children’s health and well being!