Life Lessons Learned in Summer Camp
While many high school students use the break between school years to relax or pursue a favorite hobby, I chose, instead, to spend the summer months for the past five years at Lighthouse Camp, located in the beautiful woods of eastern New York state.
I began visiting Lighthouse Camp as a camper just like all the other boys, then worked there as a waiter before finally becoming a camp counselor. The memories of my experiences at Lighthouse Camp are rich and varied. Through my counseling work at the camp I was awarded a unique opportunity to face challenges and overcome obstacles in a setting that was remote and forced me to dig deep within myself to incorporate appropriate solutions.
Two years ago I first obtained a position as counselor in training for the camp. While in training I spent time with a senior counselor who taught me coping strategies for dealing with homesick children, those who still wet their beds and camp bullies. He guided me in recognizing the signs of a child who might need more attention than others. I learned the basics of caring for a group of young boys but it was my own common sense and innate abilities that made me particularly effective in dealing with, and befriending, the campers. With a large group of 10- and 11-year-old boys, many who are away from home for the first time, nearly anything can, and will, happen.
This past summer I was afforded a promotion to junior counselor for the camp, which included additional responsibilities. One of the largest challenges was keeping my bunk and living quarters clean amidst a group of boisterous and messy boys. I taught the campers in my charge to properly sweep, scrub, mop and clean until the entire place fairly sparkled. I knew I’d been effective and experienced a great sense of pride when the head counselor publicly commended my group on a job well done.
A portion of my duties also included guiding a new counselor in training and showing him the methods I’d found suitable for dealing with children in need. There was one boy in particular named Tyler who was the classic bully: disruptive, loud, with a bad attitude and constantly picking on the other boys. Tyler made it clear he disliked the entire camp experience and very quickly found himself on the verge of being dismissed from Camp Lighthouse. Recognizing this child had other issues going on in his life, I took the time to speak with him privately and we soon made it a routine to sit up late at night and discuss the things that were important to him. I provided Tyler with advice and guidance and over time his attitude changed. Unbeknownst to me, Tyler had written several letters to his parents back home relating how our discussions had changed his whole summer and made it a wonderful experience for him. The best reward was visiting day when Tyler’s parents personally thanked me for making such a difference in their son’s life and I realized that through my efforts, I had changed a bullying, troublesome camper who loathed being at camp to one who could hardly wait to return the following year.
There were many instances during my years spent at Lighthouse Camp that I learned lessons about life, how to accept responsibility, act maturely and grow as a human being – not only for myself, but the children in my charge. I finished my last summer as a Counselor for Lighthouse Camp confident in knowing I had made a difference in the lives of so many, and one little bully named Tyler in particular. Camp counseling was a very rewarding and worthwhile endeavor. I will proudly take the lessons learned from my experiences at summer camp with me throughout the rest of my life. It was Camp Lighthouse that is credited for helping me to recognize my desire to continue making a difference in other’s lives.