Because of Camp...Rob's Story
When kids or anyone comes into the camp environment they really have a great opportunity to be themselves and sometimes that means being more outgoing, taking more risks or something as simple as just being nicer. Every child should have this chance. It really is a remarkable feeling to show the world you can be a better person.
I wrote that statement five years ago as a counselor at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. I know you might be asking yourself “what is a guy with the nickname ‘Nature Rob’ doing at Space Camp?” and the answer is simple. Camp prepares us for life and provides us with opportunity. The number of opportunities for kids at camp is endless. Campers take risks, challenge themselves, and start new adventures every summer.
In my second or third year as a counselor I worked primarily with older campers, but one week I switched and worked alongside a co-counselor with one of the youngest groups. The reason for this switch was a young boy, whom I will call “Brad.” Brad had been frustrating the staff all summer, requiring daily trips to Duff Lodge to visit the camp director. He screamed, fought, refused to participate, and disobeyed countless staff members. My co-counselor and I certainly faced some challenging moments with Brad that week, but the two of us worked well together. At the end of the week it seemed as if there was a genuine change in Brad. He told the assistant director he liked me because I was “cool”, “had my ear pierced” and “wore my hat backwards” (I know…it was a phase). I like to think there was more to it than just my appearance. My co-counselor and I focused less on Brad’s negative behavior and his reputation. We treated Brad just like every other kid. We let Brad lead and channeled his behavior in positive ways that supported the group. Small changes and opportunity made a big impact on Brad’s camp experience. Brad was in my group the following week as well, and not only did the week go smoothly, but I continued to see growth in him.
Brad didn’t return to camp the following summer. In fact, he didn’t return until he was much older on a school trip. I later found out that he had seen my picture on the Talooli staff wall and, nearly a decade after attending camp, asked about me.
Brad reminds me that the moment someone gives a kid an opportunity is often the moment the kid begins to believe in him or herself. Since camp, I have gone on to earn a master’s degree in recreation: environmental education and currently work as the assistant director of recreation at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Next summer I will be marrying my wonderful fiancée (who I met at camp) and our wedding party is made up mostly of former and current Talooli staff members. I will always cherish my time at Camp Talooli.