Welcome to my life: I am a high school senior who could easily spend my summer getting a job or an internship — or as my family would call it, “real world experience.” Then I could hang out with my friends, go out at night, and do other crazy things like taking hot showers. But instead, I have spent the last seven summers of my life sleeping in a bunk with 14 other girls in 100-degree weather at sleepaway camp — and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I know I’m lucky to be able to go to camp. I don’t have to work to support myself or my family this summer, and I know that’s a huge privilege, so I’m not complaining about having the choice. But many of us who love camp feel the pressure as high school progresses to do something that gives us more freedom and, let’s face it, looks impressive to colleges. So, I want to share why I decided that camp was still the best fit for me. After another summer, I’m really happy with my choice.
This year, as part of my training to be a sleepaway camp counselor, my age group was put in charge of the small day camp, which runs in unison with the sleepaway camp. My campers were eight-year-olds who had one dream: they wanted to join the marvelous sleepaway camp community. It was all they talked about. After lots of questioning and comforting, I discovered the only thing standing between these kids and their goal was their parents.
So parents, I have a second goal here. I want to tell you why you shouldn’t be scared to send your kids to sleepaway camp. I know it can be really overwhelming, but it will be worth it.
I began sleepaway camp when I was 11. I was about to enter middle school and I didn’t know anyone at camp. I was terrified, but I grew to love camp very quickly — mostly because of my amazing counselors. Having seen it from the other side now, I know that the counselors really do care about each camper and want each and every kid in their care to have a great time. It felt that way when I was 11, and it feels that way now, when I can still list the name of every camper I had this summer, as well as their favorite activity, what foods they don’t like, their favorite animal, their favorite song, and their favorite color. In other words, we all got to know each other pretty well.
The thing about camp is that it’s a family. It’s a chance for your son or daughter to try something totally new, to make close friendships, and to try (as scary as it is for you) being away from you for a while. If you aren’t sure if your child will like it, maybe try it for a week or two. What I’ve seen is that for the shy kids — the ones parents are most nervous about — camp can make the biggest difference in helping them come out of their shells. Send your shy kids, and camp staff will help them feel comfortable and make friends!
This family atmosphere is why I keep returning to camp. I love the challenge, the teamwork, and the long days. I love winning over that shy kid and watching them make a great friend. I love the traditions and the new additions.
And now that I’m a high school senior, what about the pressure to do something that will look better on my college application? I decided camp was still best for me. I have my whole life to impress admissions counselors and bosses and managers, but this was my last year to be part of my camp family. Plus, why should a college think any less of a job that requires long days, teamwork, a constant positive attitude, the ability to support and care for others, teaching skills, communication, and a desire to improve everything around you? If a college doesn’t want someone who cares about those skills, then it’s probably not the right place for me anyway.
In short, my advice about camp from a lifelong camper is this: give it a try! And if you love it, keep going, and help make it a place for the new campers to love.
Lauren Ofman is a high school student in California who loves spending time with her family, learning sign language, and helping teens and parents communicate! She blogs about her perspective and answers requests for advice at ateensperspectiveblog.weebly.com.
Photo courtesy of Cheley Colorado Camps in Estes Park, Colorado