PLANT CITY - Karrissa Wimberley, a middle school teacher in Tallahassee, said she has learned some important lessons at a baton camp held each summer in Plant City.
Of course, she learned how to master the baton at the Golden Triangle Twirling Camp.
But she also learned about time management, teamwork and poise in front of an audience.
"It taught me how to speak to people. I use those skills every day," Wimberley said.
For at least the seventh year, Wimberley returned to the summer camp not as a student but as an instructor.
Barbara Patrick, who founded the camp more than a half-century ago, said she loves it when her students return as part of the instructional staff.
This year, 155 girls and women and four boys spent four days receiving such instruction as catching the baton while doing a cartwheel, strut and moving in sync to music.
"They work hard, but they have a lot of fun and they look forward to coming back," said Angela Matyko, of Oviedo, whose 14-year-old daughter Kautia returned as a student for her sixth summer.
Kautia, who is competing in a national twirling contest in July, likes the quality of the instruction offered at the camp, her mother said.
Many of the 16 instructors were former students, including Myrrhanda Jones, who is the captain of the University of Florida's Gatorettes twirling team.
Joel Claudio, a former student who is the only male instructor, is the national champion in his native Puerto Rico.
Lily Vanduyn, a 16-year-old from Naples, said she attended the camp for many reasons, including honing her skills because she's a majorette at Barron Collier High School. She said she learns a lot from the camp, and "it's a lot of fun."
The moves taught at the camp can be complicated, including twirling four batons at the same time and spinning a baton from the elbow to the neck.
But Patrick, who teaches baton in Brandon and Plant City through her Patrick's Patriots Twirling Corps, said there's a lot more to it than working a baton and looking your best.
In competitive twirling, the contestants also have to answer questions on stage asked by the judges, Patrick said. That's why twirlers also need poise and confidence in public speaking, she said.
Sometimes there are hundreds or thousands of spectators who are in the audience as they answer impromptu questions about such subjects as their school or hometown.
Those skills will come in handy long after the student hangs up her baton, Patrick said.
"It prepares them for the business world, such as when they are interviewing for a job. They become comfortable answering questions, even unexpected ones, with confidence," she said.
Patrick, 75, said she never dreamed that her camp would still be going strong for more than 50 years. Her daughter, Lynann Patrick-Hudson, and four granddaughters have all been students at the camp over the years.
Patrick said she has no plans to retire and may well hand the baton - literally - over to her daughter.
"I'll keep going as long as the good Lord lets me," she said.