Let me begin by saying I’m not in high school and I haven’t been in a very long time. Allow me to also keep you in the know by telling you I’m not younger than 21. I’m not even younger than 25. Yet, when I saw an ad from my college during finals week that was calling for applications for summer camp counselor, I was so in. I edited my resume (which coincidentally, I need to do again, thanks for reminding me) and wrote my cover letter as to why I deserved the job. It was heartfelt and I stand by every word about how important it is to teach young girls self-respect and self-esteem. I sent it off, finished my finals, and got married. During my honeymoon, I received a phone call from my school’s general ###-1000 line. Even though I was lounging on Cape Cod all week with my new husband, I decided to answer. It was the director of the program and she wanted me to come in for an interview, say, tomorrow. I expressed my enthusiasm but had to admit that I was out of town and wouldn’t be able to come. Actually, I was on honeymoon. I remember laughing with her at the timing of it all and made plans to call as soon as I returned the following week.
I decided to come back from vacation (though it took a great amount of convincing to come back to “the real world”) and interviewed. The following week, I received my job offer and got my registration for payroll started. A month later, I attended orientation the night before our first official day and met all of my co-counselors and instructors. There was something I noticed… all my co-counselors were, well, not quite as old as me. By a long shot. In fact, some of them hadn’t even graduated high school yet.
I questioned myself briefly… what on earth was this experience going to be like? I hadn’t interacted with high school girls since I was one myself… and that was not a time of my life that I savored. My life had been tormented by these girls.
I could only pray that times had changed or that at least these girls might be different.
As the first days of each week passed, my co-counselors and I learned each other’s personalities and very easily became fast friends. For privacy purposes, I will withhold their names but would like to say that these girls are all amazing young women who will most certainly become pillars of strength and wisdom. I am very glad to call them friends and still see them from time to time.
As for the camp, it was a month-long span of equals amounts fun and challenge. There wasn’t a day that I didn’t look forward to spending time with them. I learned that I have a passion for working with children. It made me a bit regretful that I hadn’t figured this out sooner and pursued a degree in Education instead of Criminal Justice. My first day began as my co-counselor and I discussed our thoughts for running the day for our girls, who were ages 9 through 12. Our first activity was to get acquainted with each other, so on the fly I came up with some games for us to play while we stood in a circle. First I asked them, “Tell me your name, how old you are, something about camp that you’re looking forward to most, and your favorite book.” Next, I made everyone cover their names and one by one, recite who everyone was. We all had a blast and we were in like Flynn from there.
The following age group was a challenge, due to the fact that there were so many children in one group. The first and last weeks were great as we had a group of less than 10 children. The middle week, though? 18 kids. The beginning of the week was rocky as we struggled to find a power balance. By midweek, however, we were doing great. All of my kids were sweethearts and my only regret is not having enough opportunity and time to get to know each and every one of them.
My final week was with the young ones, all 6 years old. Every day was wonderful, they each had such joy and willingness to play and learn! It made the end of the week very bittersweet. From the first day of the week, every activity we did was full of fun. We made science experiments, played many outside games, and learned new sit-in-a-circle games. All my campers were willing to share and be kind. There was one girl who stood out to me as going above and beyond. Her name I will withhold for privacy, as well. During our final day, she had been accused of stealing another camper’s paper fan that they had all made in previous days. I couldn’t say one way or another what truly happened, but what happened next was surprising, and inspiring. Though they began to fight and bicker about who did what, the minute I stepped away in order to secretly grab supplies for the girls to make new fans as a surprise, the accused girl handed over the fan she truly, honestly believed to be her own… to her accuser, in order to make her happy again and keep the peace. Imagine how shocked and happy she was when I came around the corner holding the paper and markers! I took her aside and expressed to her how incredibly proud of her I was and how much I appreciated her stepping up to do the right thing.
I miss those girls. Our final day went by so very fast and was over with the blink of an eye. I left with the hope that I’ll be able to do this again next summer and the realization of how much I love working with kiddos. This experience made me narrow my job hunt to positions that align with that love in the hope that I will find something as really, truly fulfilling as those weeks in July were.