For the past three years of my college experience, I have been tackling internship after internship so I was greatly looking forward to the prospect of taking it easy during the summer before my senior year at UMass. I kicked off my summer break by taking a one week long cruise with my best friend, Ella, through the western Caribbean. This experience was incredible (shoutout to MSC Cruises). I visited places that looked like somewhere straight out of a National Geographic magazine or a celebrity’s Instagram feed. As fantastic and surreal as the countries I visited were, the cruise line’s entertainment staff made the trip even more exciting and unforgettable. Each day, a group of MSC employees would host dance parties, game nights, belly flop competitions, and everything in between to make sure all of the cruise guests were having a blast. The energy this group of individuals radiated was so positive and electrifying as they went around to people and helped them get excited for an event was inspiring and I began seriously envying their job. To be able to run around, put smiles on peoples faces, and fill a space with laughter sounded like a dream come true.
On the last night of the cruise, Ella and I crawled back into our room after a night full of dancing. I remember throwing myself onto the bed and talking about how much I adored the MSC entertainment crew and how I wanted to do exactly what they were doing. I even used up a large chunk of our “precious” cell data to look up exactly how one would go about becoming a professional entertainer. However, after learning that being multilingual was a requirement for nearly every cruise line employee, I gave up on the idea.
Fast forward to the five hour wait at the Miami International Airport, Ella and I sat at a table eating breakfast, casually scrolling through out phones while we awaited our flight back to Boston. As I scrolled through my emails, mindlessly deleting one after the other, I noticed the words “Everwood Day Camp” in a notice from Indeed.com. That’s when inspiration hit me like a freight train. I could be a camp counselor. My house is only a seven minute drive from Everwood and I had passed by the lush green fields and idyllic wood cabins dozens of times but never summoned the courage to actually apply. The only experience I had working with kids was a lifeguard/ a swim instructor job I had for a year when I was 16. I loved working with my students and watching them learn to love jumping into a pool and working on their swim technique, but I never thought to transfer those skills into a camp counselor job. Being a counselor meant working long hours, five days a week, and constant interaction with kids. I didn’t know if I would be any good at this kind of work.
As I sat in the airport, I mulled over my reservations about this job while looking through the application. It was already June, so I knew the camp season had to start soon which meant that applying was a now or never situation. I spent the next two hours filling out the online application and clicked “submit” before I could change my mind.
A few days passed and I received a call from the assistant director of Everwood. She asked me to come in for an interview that day and within the next 24 hours, I was a camp counselor and about to embark on a journey that changed my life!
The first week of being a counselor was tough, there’s no doubt about it. I was completely new to the campgrounds so finding my way around the 70-acre fields, forests, and waterfronts was a challenge, not to mention I had to look like I knew exactly what I was doing while a group of 20 tweenagers trailed behind me. Luckily, I was co-counselors with two other girls that would quickly become some of my closest friends, not just at camp but in life.
As the weeks progressed, I became more and more confident with my ability to work with kids and Everwood Day Camp had officially become one of my favorite places in the world. Everwood gave me the best few months of my life. I got to spend my days outside in the sun, running around like a kid but also becoming a mentor and friend to campers that I loved more than I thought would ever happen. The entire E.D.C. community had become like my second family and I thrived in this space of non-stop joy, creativity, and absolutely, unadulterated happiness. My heart was so full as I watched my campers laugh and immerse themselves so whole-heartedly into one of the camp’s dozens of activities. My heart was equally as broken when their time at camp came to an end and my co-counselors and I waved (and sobbed like babies) from the side of the road while the school busses left Everwood. My bond with my fellow counselors developed into a friendship that far surpassed any kind of coworker relationship I ever had. These girls were a massive part of what made camp so special.
About midway through the camp’s 9-week season, I sat on one of the wooden benches that overlooked Everwood’s waterfront. As I sat waiting for the end of the free swim period, I began to realize something: I didn’t ever want to stop working with kids and helping them grow into kind, intelligent members of society. I wanted to continue to build relationships with children and show them how to navigate through life’s trickiest situations. I wanted to do this for the rest of my life as a teacher.
For the past 4 years at college, I was dead set on one of two career paths: either become a publisher for young adult novels or work in advertising for The Walt Disney Company. I had been preparing for these two options the entirety of my time at UMass. I joined clubs, internships, jobs, and classes to help me hit the ground running when I graduated and moved out to New York, Florida, or California to fulfill my dream. But, one summer at Everwood Day Camp changed everything. After working for 9 weeks, eight hours everyday with kids, I knew that teaching was exactly what I was meant to do and would absolutely love.
I took a risk when applying to Everwood. I didn’t know if I would be any good at being a leader for kids that looked up to me. I didn’t know if I would make any friends. I didn’t know anything. But I did it anyways, and my life was changed. I made a career decision I thought would never happen nor would I have any interest in. I made friends that I now consider my family and stay connected to despite now being spread out across Massachusetts (and Rhode Island). I met people that became my support system and mentors at camp. One risk led to all of these other incredible experiences.
If you ever find yourself in a situation that could lead to great things but fear is holding you back, take it from me and just do it. Do it and see what amazing things follow.