As summer gets closer, I’m preparing myself for my first “big girl” job: a real internship, with professional experience and all-business dress code. And while I’m ecstatic to explore more in my field, part of me wishes to head up to the mountains again, trade in my pumps for a pair of chacos, and load my wrists up with friendship bracelets from summers past. To be a camp counselor again, for one last summer.
I spent two summers as a counselor at an overnight camp in northern Arizona, the same camp where I spent my summers as a kid, rowed my first canoe, sang songs around the campfire with my best friends. The camp was called Camp Sky-Y, and some of my most formative memories were made among its pines. Growing up, all I wanted to do was become a Sky-Y counselor, and when I was seventeen, that dream came true. I became a CIT, or a counselor-in-training, and spent the summer camping in Utah with the other Sky-Y CITs, then in a cabin with twenty six-year-old campers. That first week was one of the most exhausting yet rewarding weeks of my life. I went on to be a counselor at Sky-Y that next summer, in 2020, though it was short-but-sweet due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In summer of 2021, I worked as a day camp counselor in Phoenix at a sports camp named Camp Hubbard. Though I missed Camp Sky-Y, concerns about an overnight camp during the pandemic were still present, and I was excited by the prospect of a new experience. I had an incredible summer laughing, making memories, and playing sports with the kids at Hubbard, though most of them schooled me in basketball. (I’m still a champ at foursquare!)
There are few things that have changed my life like summer camp has. Being a camp counselor was the hardest but also the best job of my life. There were days that I was so exhausted and frustrated with myself, feeling like I was failing my kids. But there were also the good days: when a camper would run up to me and thank me for the best summer ever, or finally score that goal in soccer, or help another camper when they were feeling down. Seeing the growth among campers made it all worth it.
Not only did I see personal growth in my campers, I saw personal growth in myself: someone who ended her summers more confident, more patient, and more willing to let go and be a kid again.