Happy May!! It is the last month before summer to celebrate Core Values in Action! We have already explored, practiced, defined, and celebrated 7 of the 8 core values this school year, so I am excited to end with one of my favorites: Stewardship!
What Stewardship means to me is to give back to the place that has given so much to you. Camp is that place for me.
I grew up going to YMCA Camp Hayward on Cape Cod. I spent my summers there doing many of the same activities that we do at Frost Valley, but the highlights of my time at camp were the relationships I built and giving me some amazing first time experiences. One of my first camp memories was making mac and cheese over a fire on my first ever overnight camping experience. Another memory was paddle boarding to the island to meet our brother cabin. My fondest memory was “sneaking out” with our counselors during rest hour to decorate the dining hall for another camper’s birthday. I sang in my first ever talent show, performing “Like a Prayer” by Madonna. It was epic. I loved camp so much, and I can still sing every word of the Camp Hayward song, even though I haven’t been there in over 10 years.
When I was in high school and throughout college, I worked at the Boroughs YMCA Day Camp as a counselor, where I continued spending summers with amazing kids, giving them opportunities to make new friends, and try new things. This was the place where I really learned a lot about my self as a leader. It was my first job, so learning responsibility for taking care of kids while also being professional was a new thing for me! I loved being trusted by my supervisors to lead activities and create the schedule for my campers. And because it was camp, I had more fun than I could ever imagine creating wacky group games and activities. This is when I knew that I wanted to be a teacher, which is what I studied in college. I also learned about how to interact and be a role model for children. I can remember my very first day as a counselor, trying to show authority over my 13 year old campers by yelling at them to put their phones away. Man, did I learn quickly that yelling was going to get you nowhere in life, but especially when working with kids. One of these campers in particular was dealing with a lot in her life, and I didn’t get to know this about her right away but just assumed she was stubborn and disrespectful. What she really needed was someone to talk to, someone who she could trust to help her figure out what being a teenager is all about. For the rest of the summer, I did everything I could to be that person for her. The relationship that I built with her was one of the most memorable, because it started off to bad, but ended up really making a difference to her. As a camp counselor, I found my purpose, to make a difference in the life of child.
When I went to college, I spent the first 4 days of my first semester in the woods. I was literally at camp but I was technically in college! We did repeat after me songs (where I learned Bibbley), did teambuilding initiatives, wrote warm fuzzies, and so many other things that are SO CAMP. I immediately felt comfortable with the biggest thing I’d ever done. That is the power of camp: because of the craziness and silliness and focus on relationships, all of the hard things get a little bit easier. Throughout college, I continued to stay involved with Leadership and Orientation organizations on campus, including two clubs that went on retreats to various YMCA Camps. Because Springfield College where I went to school was founded as a YMCA Training School, there was a huge focus on educating YMCA Leaders in spirit, mind, and body, so we went to different YMCA camps for various retreats, meetings, and career fairs. One of the leadership retreats focused on self-reflection and empowerment, and it actually changed my life. I had never felt so inspired to be myself and make a positive impact on the world. This retreat happened at camp!
When I was a senior in college, I came to Frost Valley for a conference. I immediately fell in love with the mountains! I had traveled before and have always loved nature, but something magical about the Catskills drew me in, and knew that I had to work here. I ended up moving to Frost Valley two days after Graduation in May 2013. My first summer was at Farm Camp, and it has given me the direction that my life needed: to make the world (people and the earth) better for everyone. Farming and gardening and eating sustainable is a huge part of my life, and Farm Camp taught me that. I use my teaching degree every day to teach children about making new friends, Frost Valley gave me my career, a new life, a new chance to explore the world. And I’ve been here ever since.
Camp has given me more than I ever realized until more recently. So many firsts for me happened at camp, giving me so many moments of “WOW, life IS good” in some of the most amazingly beautiful landscapes. I am lucky to have been able to experience camp throughout my life. Not only are the memories strong, but my passion and drive for my work is as well. I feel empowered as a human, I feel like I can make a positive difference on the world, and I feel so thankful for everything camp has given to me. I know I’m just one of many people who feel similarly to this.
And that is where STEWARDSHIP comes in. Camp has given me so much, which is why I try to give back to camp as much as I can. Right now, working and living here, I find many little ways to give back, and some bigger ways too. Somethings include cleaning up trash on our property to make sure the earth is taken care of or writing cards to thank my co-workers and staff members who also give back to the community. It is making sure camp traditions are passed down, ensuring new campers are welcomed into our family, and staying in touch with alumni once their camp careers are over. Stewardship is both giving back to the earth as well as the people, making it better for everyone who will experience camp when we are gone.
Throughout the month of May, we will be exploring Stewardship and talking about how to put Stewardship into action. What are some ways that you demonstrate Stewardship? How do you give back in your communities? Send your stories to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a Core Values in Action Tshirt to wear all summer long. Keep on the look out for next week’s blog where we share a story of Stewarship from one of our Susky Staff members, Elodie!
Peace, Love, Bibbley,