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This weekend a lot of my college peers will be attending our 15th year reunion in Iowa. I won’t be there. I’ve got to work – it is camp season after all – but it did get me thinking about my college and one of the observations I made during my sophomore year.
When I was at Grinnell College I served as a Student Advisor (SA) in Main Hall. In the simplest terms, my job was to be a camp counselor for college kids. I helped first-year students settle in, talked with nervous parents, and then tried to make sure everyone found their place at school during the year. One lasting impression from the experience was meeting “my kids” on the first day of school. Within moments, I could tell you which students went to a traditional overnight summer camp and which ones had not had that benefit. Teens that had been to summer camp were confident in meeting new people, they were comfortable with the idea of sharing a room or suite (even if they had grown up with their own room at home), they were excited to get out on campus to explore, and they invited others from the floor out on their adventures. They were not perfect. They did not necessarily make better grades. They did not all start on the soccer or swim teams. But there was something different.
Living away from home at camp for a week or an entire summer teaches life skills that cannot be learned in school, sports, or a house of worship. A well-designed camp experience teaches young people how to lead and how to be responsible members of a group being led. It can encourage campers to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. It can teach, in a very experiential way, the value of inclusion and diversity. It can help kids discover who they are beyond the established perceptions of their families and peers back home. Summer Camp can be the perfect stepping stone to adulthood. In that way, it truly is a rite of passage – one that eases the transition to college and adulthood.
Grinnellians, enjoy the reunion. Kristi and I promise to be there for the 20th.
We’ll see you at Camp!
Be sure to visit Nathan’s camp, The South Mountain YMCA Camps, at www.smymca.org.