From camper to counselor, I have lived, breathed and most importantly had the time of my life at summer camps since the ripe young age of seven, and I firmly believe every child should experience sleeping in a tent for at least one week.
For a short period of time, the lack of technology, parents, and familiarity envelopes kids and thrives them with a new experiences in the great outdoors. With activities like swimming, canoeing, rock climbing, arts and crafts, plus all the ice cream you can eat, summer camp seems like a dream come true. Sadly, these once in a lifetime experiences are being passed up by many.
According to the American Camping Association (ACA), the rate of children going to camp has dramatically dropped since 2007. Out of 14,000 camps in the United States, 82% have reported that amp enrollment has decreased or stayed the same over the past ten years.
“I’ve been going to camp for eight years now, and I can honestly say it has made me a better person,” says New London County (NLC) 4-H junior staff member Alex Ryan. The ACA reports that 76% of camps include community service and camper responsibility into their everyday lives at camp. For example, at YMCA Camp Sloane in Lakeville, CT, kids not only clean their bunks, but clean up after meals.
“It’s funny when parents call after they pick up their child, and they describe how their children are willingly cleaning their rooms and around the house,” laughed camp counselor Nacy Haltz. Haltz traveled to Connecticut this past summer from New Zealand to teach outdoor living, canoeing, and archery at YMCA Camp Sloane. She also states that coming to America helped her expand her thoughts and helped her grow as a person.
In short, International counselors add a new perspective to summer camps, as well as they learn more about American culture. Both sides gain important lessons from each other to help prosper in their everyday lives. Campers learn responsibility, how to make friends and how to unplug, while counselors learn leadership, time management and how to connect with children of all ages.
My personal experience as a camper made me into the outgoing, and enthusiastic gal I am today. I looked up to the staff members, as I promised myself that one day, I too, would be a camp counselor. This past summer, I achieved my goal and stayed at camp for six straight weeks as a counselor. I’ve learned responsibility, how to engage campers, and teaching skills I will continue to use the rest of my life. To say camp has changed me, is an understatement. I would not be here if it wasn’t for camp.
So the next time you wonder what you are doing for summer vacation, think about summer camp. Live, breathe and have the time of your life.