A counselor pays it forward at our brother/sister summer camp in NHNovember 16, 2015
We asked members of our camp staff if they wanted to share their thoughts about our brother/sister community, and many, many have said yes, so each week this fall we have published articles by our different camp counselors. This week we are thrilled to share another piece written by Josh Williams, a long time counselor and unit leader at our summer camp for boys.
I’m writing this from the Kenwood & Evergreen Base Camp in Sharon, MA. I’m going to attempt to reflect on my past, present and future with K&E, analyze some values I’ve learned as a camp counselor, and reflect on how that has helped me in my work as a unit leader.
It’s currently 3 years, 4 months and 9 days since I departed my beloved UK and stepped foot on Eagle Pond Road for the first time. Four summers later, I am now parked on a fairly standard office chair (I think it’s pretty standard, it’s the first time I’ve worked in an office) helping provide the building blocks for all the amazing things that happen at our brother/sister summer camp in NH. This overnight camp has not only provided me with life skills, personal skills, amazing connections and lifetime memories, but has also given me opportunities that three years ago didn’t even exist in the depths of my imagination.
Camp friends and roommates Josh Williams and Sean Atkinson
Seated next to me in his fairly standard office chair is Sean Atkinson, another Kenwood unit leader who followed a similar path of General Counselor > Unit Leader > Intern. We share a house, we share a lovely mid 2000’s navy blue soccer mom minivan, we share the same interests, and as interns, for the next year or so, we are sharing our lives. Ironically, it was on my first afternoon at Camp some 1228 days ago that Sean was the first person I spoke to, or maybe he spoke to me. I imagine the latter. Back then Sean was starting his 2nd summer, having already had a year of being a camp counselor under his belt. I remember back that he spoke to me a little about soccer, advised me on where the lockers for personal electronics were located, and politely instructed me to ask him anything I needed to know. New environments can always be daunting — even as a fairly confident 19 year old — but that short exchange persisted in putting my anxieties to rest and assured me that this was in fact a great place, full of great people.
Staff orientation is great fun. Sure there’s tedious safety meetings and plenty of time spent sitting and listening, but the whole process is filled with an underlying sense of community, and it sets the tone for when the campers arrive. Veteran staff going out of their way to make new staff welcome, new staff going out of their comfort zones and intentionally make a fool of themselves to make the new people laugh. This environment and ethos then proceeds to carry on through the summer.
As a unit leader in charge of 30 or so people, I now make it my responsibility to make every new camper welcome, aid and help facilitate connections and put any camper anxieties to rest. I do this through a range of techniques and protocols (a lot of which I described in a previous blog) that helped me transform last year’s 4th grade boy age group into a rugby team.
Josh and some of his campers and counselors finding their inner warrior while on a camping trip
As a unit leader it is my role to give each and every camper in the unit a sense of belonging and purpose. I always try to view camp from the perspective of the campers, remembering how anxiety-filled I was on my first day (and imaging the nervousness or even fear of an elementary school child). This is also true for managing and communicating with my staff. I’d like to think I was extremely approachable, and am more than happy to discuss counseling issues or argue over which sport earns the title of ‘football’ until 3am. (To clarify, it’s the European product. FOOT + BALL. It makes sense because we use our foot to kick the ball. For the American audience I’d like to recommend a rebrand of Football to being called HAND + EGG. You use your hands to throw the egg. Think about it…).
Camp has molded me into a better, more well-rounded person. Everything our brother/sister summer camp puts out – from blog explaining our campers’ social and emotional growth to the videos that demonstrate how a child at K&E will become more independent, resilient, a better communicator — all of those incredible outcomes are felt by the camp counselors as well. It’s not just what I want to pass on to our campers – it’s what I want to give back to the community. If I can help a child become a better person, a more proficient communicator, or learn to be their best self then the camp season it’s been a success story.
This little summer camp in NH has become a vital factor in helping me on the road to becoming the best version of myself. I feel grateful and lucky that I landed at Kenwood & Evergreen. All the staff, campers, families have been amazing and I couldn’t have hoped for a better place to start my career post-graduation!