Ever since 2009, I’ve spent my summers at YMCA Camp Huckins in Freedom, New Hampshire. That means I started going when I was ten years old, and now I’ve worked my way up to staff. While you might think that’s a long time, it actually isn’t uncommon for campers and staff members at Huckins to return year after year. Our camp director recently celebrated her 50th summer! That being said, some people still seem confused as to why I would continue going back to an all girls camp when I could be working a “real job” to build my resume. For those of you that might fall into that category, here are some of the reasons why:
- Camp Friends are the Best Friends:
I have always found that no matter how long my camp friends and I have been apart, it feels like nothing has changed when we get back together. I have been able to watch my friends grow into the strong women they are today, and they’ve always been there to support me in my growth as well. When nothing seems to be going right, my camp friends are always there if I need somebody to lean on. As a counselor, I also have noticed these relationships forming between my campers. Middle school can be really difficult for girls, but I love hearing the stories about camp friends being there for one another through those hard times. Part of what strengthens the relationships you form at camp is the fact that we all “disconnect to connect.” There is no Instagram, Snapchat, or TikTok to distract you from interacting with those that are around you. It truly is an opportunity to leave other things behind and fully invest into your friendships.
- Leadership Development:
At the age of 15, when making the transition from camper to staff member, I had counselors to look up to that helped me engage in important discussions and activities surrounding the true meaning of leadership. As a young woman, this was particularly important in the development of my self-confidence. Additionally, as a CIT (counselor in training), I had the opportunity to jump right in and interact with campers while also receiving constructive criticism to better understand how I could improve. Years later, I took on the role of training CITs and helping them understand what it means to be a counselor. There is always someone at camp to help you develop your skills and step into a leadership role, and there are multiple opportunities to act as a mentor for young girls that are still developing their identities.
- Female Empowerment:
Nearly 100% of the leadership at camp is female, and most (if not all) of those women were campers themselves. Because of this, camp provided me with a lot of positive female role models that taught me to be proud of who I am. They emphasized the fact that my voice matters. They created an environment that accepts and embraces people for exactly who they are. When I became a staff member, I made it a priority to pass on those same values to my campers. Before leaving for meetings at night, we typically read a book or short stories. Over the years, I have collected a lot of books that feature women who rock, and the campers all loved hearing stories about women like Frida Khalo, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Harriet Tumban, and many more. The support that the environment provides truly makes you feel like you can do anything you set your mind to.
- Working at Camp IS a Real Job:
To start, being a camp counselor is a 24/7 job. I’ve learned how to juggle multiple responsibilities by helping a camper through homesickness while simultaneously running fun activities and overseeing a cabin of ten campers. I’ve developed my communication and collaboration skills by working with other counselors to make the experience fun for all campers. I’ve had to think on my feet and solve problems, because sometimes things do not go exactly as planned. I’ve constantly been pushed to think creatively when it comes to organizing activities that campers would enjoy. These are only a few examples of the skills that I have learned that are applicable to the workforce, and beyond that, it seems that engaging with my campers teaches me new things each day.
I could go on and on in this article about how much love I have for this place, but it’s really hard to sum up 11 summers on a piece of paper. I hope that I’ve given you at least some insight as to why myself and countless others decide to turn down desk jobs and ditch technology for another summer spent in the sun.