Never in a million years would teenage me have thought, “I would really love working with teens.” I didn’t go to overnight summer camp as a teenager, and I didn’t think kids like me could start a business. Playing video games or sports consumed my childhood and I assumed I would continue those passions as a career because they made me happy.
But I’ve had several life-changing experiences in the past few years. First, living in Israel for a year, where I began working with nonprofit organizations and community initiatives; then moving into a Moishe House where I planned, organized and hosted Jewish cultural events; and most impactful of all, to me, has been working at Camp Inc. both last year and this summer. Every one of these events is shaping where I might go next, how I see the world, and what I want to do with myself in the future, but only when each experience is combined have I felt close to real fulfillment.
Here at Camp Inc., I’ve discovered that I have a passion for teen engagement, I’ve defined the social values I want to further professionally, and also experienced a community that I will always feel a part of. Despite this, I sometimes find it difficult to validate my feelings and I wonder if I’m really making a difference – until campers remind me, most often without realizing it.
Sometimes it’s a pair of returning campers remembering a photo scavenger hunt from last year, recalling in detail the silly, fun evening we shared. Other days, it’s recognizing a returning camper who now wears a kippah since his bar mitzvah and talks to me about video games as though I’m his buddy from school. This week it was hearing from second-year Camp Inc.’ers that they were excited to hear I would be a counselor again this year.
It’s usually these little reminders – telling me I’ve done something memorable – that make me extraordinarily happy to work at Camp Inc. It feels like telling my campers to find their passion – to do what makes them happy – has come full circle.
A few nights ago I received a letter from a camper that was in my cabin last session. She described how happy camp made her. She said that she felt valued here, and that a night hike with me and my campers was one of the best nights of her life. She talked about how she’s now teaching herself to play the guitar, and choreographing a song/dance routine to a song she first heard here from our Jewish educator. She misses camp, and wished she could be here now.
It brought tears to my eyes. I don’t know if there is anything a staff member, parent or camper could have done to make me happier than reading this camper’s letter. It’s these reminders, big and small, that fuel my passion and puts a smile on my face.