Forge Project Camp Inspires Boys Through Unique Experiences

Published 9:23 am Wednesday, July 19, 2023

The Forge Project, a one-week summer camp for boys entering 7th and 8th grade, continues to make a lasting impact under its founder, Susan Spiers. Now in its ninth year, the program aims to empower young boys with essential life skills and expose them to various career opportunities beyond high school. This week, the camp hosted Troy Ellis, a local pilot known for his remarkable sky art.

Spiers, a dedicated educator who taught 2nd to 6th grade at SouthSide Upper Elementary for over 40 years, retired in May. Her inspiration for the Forge Project originated from Steve Harvey’s camp for fatherless boys. Initially, Susan had hoped to nominate a student for Harvey’s camp, but when the student didn’t qualify, she took matters into her own hands and established the Forge Project.

Throughout the week-long camp, the boys engage in various activities, each designed to foster personal growth and instill important life skills. From learning how to tie a tie, reading holy books, mastering personal grooming, and participating in anger management classes, the boys are exposed to diverse experiences. Susan firmly believes that every boy who attends the camp possesses inherent leadership potential, and her mission is to help them realize it.

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Guest speakers and special visitors are integral to the Forge Project’s curriculum. Spiers actively seeks professionals from different fields to provide the boys insight into various career opportunities. One such guest speaker was Troy Ellis, a beloved local pilot known for his enchanting sky artwork. For the past 20 years, Ellis has been flying planes, and in 2006, he earned his license to carry passengers.

Although not a pilot by profession, Ellis dedicates himself to his hobby of drawing smiley faces in the sky. Carrying out his aerial masterpieces in his personal RV-8 plane equipped with a 4.5-gallon oil tank, Ellis elevates to altitudes of 8,000 to 9,000 feet. Once there, he initiates the oil flow to the exhaust, where the heat causes the oil to smoke, creating his signature sky art. Lasting only as long as the winds permit, Ellis’s smiley faces bring joy to the community.

During his visit to the Forge Project, Ellis shared his passion for aviation and the numerous job opportunities in the field. The boys had the chance to witness Ellis in action as he took to the skies, creating a smiley face high above them.

Spiers and the Forge Project continue to inspire young boys, opening their eyes to a world of possibilities beyond their current circumstances. Through unique experiences, empowering lessons, and inspiring guest speakers like Troy Ellis, these boys have the knowledge and confidence to pursue their dreams and become future community leaders.