Evergreen Is A Powerful Summer Camp SisterhoodNovember 11, 2014
Evergreen is a powerful summer camp sisterhood
I recently learned about this chance meeting that took place in August. As our 7-week camp season ended one of our families was spending some time on Martha’s Vineyard. Out for dinner one night, they ate at this very popular restaurant called The Chilmark Tavern. As they were enjoying their meal the owner walked from table to table, meeting and chatting with her customers. Somehow it came up that this family was celebrating the return of the daughter after a fabulous summer at camp in NH. The restaurant owner excitedly asked “do you go to Camp Evergreen? I went there too!” Suddenly, out came the chef, who also went to there, and much excitement and hugging followed as these three Evergreen girls began to trade stories about this place that they all loved so much.
It was yet again an example of the life-long sisterhood of our summer camp: three women born in 3 different decades, excited and proud to discover that they shared this bond. But why did this matter so much to them? Why did two very successful women suddenly get an adrenaline rush at the idea of singing camp songs with an 11-year old that they had just met? I suspect that it’s because Camp Evergreen is such a powerful community to belong to.
Some of it is simply knowing that they had all lived the same fabulous experiences: walking to breakfast arm-in-arm as the sun rises over our beautiful lake, having an Evergreen Big Sister who is an incredible role model, and standing on benches in the dining hall to stomp their feet and cheer after every dinner. Meeting another Evergreen girl you know that she’s fun, she relishes an opportunity to be silly, and is a good friend to others. Those were certainly important reasons for their excitement, but I suspect that it was something more.
Our campers, staff and alumni know that this isn’t just a summer camp: it’s a transformative experience. They recognize that our community helps young women be their best selves. It’s the place where our Evergreen girls (and Kenwood boys) forge some of the most important friendships of their lives. It’s also a laboratory in which they can work on their 21st century skills — including independence, responsibility, collaboration, and resilience – in the most supportive of environments. And we do it not over 2 or 4 weeks, but over 7. That’s crucial to their social and emotional development, because acquiring these skills takes time and repetition. Living in our community for seven weeks simply helps you grow more.
I also believe that this sisterhood is so powerful because our girls share the same values and goals. As every young woman learns at her first campfire “an Evergreen girl seeks truth, beauty, love, friendship, spirit, health and knowledge”. Those are powerful traits for a group of women to all hold dear, especially when they hail from all corners of the globe. Our girls learn summer after summer that they can rely on their camp sisters in a way that they can’t with their home friends. There’s a stronger foundation that only comes from whole summers spent living and learning together.
Jenna Petersiel, the owner of the Chilmark Tavern, was a long-time camper, counselor and unit leader at Camp Evergreen. Though she hasn’t been a contemporary member of our staff since the late 90’s, her connection to and enthusiasm for our summer camp in NH has not dimmed one bit. The same was true for the restaurant’s executive chef (also named Jenna). Chef Jenna Sprafkin was a camper and counselor during the 90’s and 00’s. In fact, while our current camp family was still eating at her restaurant Jenna was able to go into her office and pull out an Evergreen group photo that both Jennas and my wife Deena were in! That they keep that photo handy at work tells you something about what Evergreen still means to them.
As one of the directors of our brother-sister summer camp in NH I find it amazing to watch how much pleasure and meaning our members derive from their membership in this community, whether it is in our girls’ or boys’ camp. As I wrote last week, as a former Kenwood camper and counselor, it still happens for me on a daily basis. I look forward to our newest campers, staff and even parents discovering this for themselves as we approach our 85th summer this coming June.