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From Art
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The 2012 ACA National Conference will be held in Atlanta. My first national conference was in 1974 in Atlanta, so for me, returning to the same city thirty-seven years later brings back a flood of memories of not only my first national conference, but also a multitude of others (including a second one in Atlanta that I have attended!).

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Universal needs, tireless visionaries, transplanted ideas, unique character.

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We had a missing camper. I was seconds away from sending my staff to search the dark lake on a moonless night when I received the news that we’d found him. I made my way headlong toward the child. Thankfully, I was stopped by the head counselor before I could mess up one of the best pieces of camp counseling I had ever witnessed, coming from Carlos, a 16-year-old, first-year counselor-in-training.

“I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to make this week better for you,” said Carlos.

“It’s not your fault,” Jacob, the missing camper, mumbled.

“But it’s my job.”

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In one of her 2010 commentaries in Camping Magazine, former American Camp Association CEO Peg Smith reflected on her conversations with award-winning researcher Marge Scanlin nearly a decade earlier about establishing a strong research tradition in the ACA). She said, “We wanted to find a way to create a culture that could not only say, ‘Camp Gives Kids a World of Good,’ but demonstrate science-based evidence of such” (Smith, 2010). This contrasting desire for both anecdotes and evidence resonates with me.

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“Successful leadership is not about being tough or soft, sensitive or assertive, but about a set of attributes. First and foremost is character.” — Warren Bennis, American scholar, organizational consultant, and author

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Returning from the 2011 ACA National Conference in San Diego, I began to reflect on how camps can impact a student's education. For the past forty years, my school district has sent fifth graders to camp to enhance their science education. Our fifth grade students participate in a three-day, two-night program. During this time, the students get to experience science at a school without walls. The hands on classes have a great impact on student comprehension. More camps should increase their involvement in this type of school year endeavor.

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Many of us who grew up going to summer camp feel like it was the place we could most be ourselves. If we had the option, we would make it our second (or first) home.

You probably have a story about your favorite counselor who you looked up to, who helped you imagine the personality traits you wanted to have when you grew up and opened your mind to new experiences.

It makes sense that many campers continue on to become staff members, because they want to do what their most memorable role models did.

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Many residential and day camps are experiencing their older and most experienced counselors aging out because they now need full-time employment and can no longer remain at camp for the summer. College students who used to return each summer have graduated and now wait for alumni activities and events to continue their relationship with their camps. Those senior staff played a very significant and essential role during their tenure at camp. They were the “culture carriers” who taught new and inexperienced staff what is special about your intentional community.

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In preparation for the 2010 camp season, the American Camp Association® (ACA) enlisted the expertise of Rachel Simmons and Dr. Michael Thompson, best-selling authors and specialists on the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of childhood. Both professionals offer insight into why camp is so valuable to kids today and how the mentoring nature of the camp counselor-camper relationship can provide the positive role models kids need in building self-awareness and figuring out who they are and who they want to be.

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I got a Nakamichi cassette deck for Christmas in 1983. It had two kinds of Dolby noise reduction, auto-detection of tape substrate (normal vs. chromium dioxide vs. metal), manual level adjustments (crucial for creating stellar mix tapes gifted to would-be romances), and a ridiculously slow eject speed that made my inner gearhead swoon. My maternal grandfather, who was spending the holidays with us, asked for a demonstration that afternoon but recoiled when he saw the brand.

"Nakamichi? Why did your parents get you a Nakamichi? What's wrong with RCA?"

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