Ever since I was ten years old, I have looked forward to school ending, and summer camp beginning, where I would be challenged in and out of the ocean, physically and mentally. Starting the junior guard program seven years ago, was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I met lifelong friends, learned to work as a team, and was inspired by the instructors to love the outdoors. It was refreshing to spend time with my instructors that were relatively not much older than me, but just as motivating as the older adults in my life. I could not wait to be apart of the staff, to get paid to inspire young boys and girls to care and love the outdoors. This goal was met after many years of dedication and hard work, passing written and physical exams. Now I am fortunate enough to transfer what I have learned to the new participants. My role models were never on screens or famous. They were the faces that motivated and believed in me. We all, maybe without knowing it, have somebody close to us that inspires us to be a better version of ourselves. With modern technology so accessible, many kids and young adults aspire to be as beautiful or as carefree as the famous individuals they see on their social media accounts. However, it is important to recognize that all actions, and all people influence those around them. We are all a role model for somebody, constantly reminding those around us what to do and not do; shaping the personas of others as we too are sculpted by our surroundings. Recognizing the impact we have on others will make us think about our actions and raise motivated, intelligent younger generations.
Growing up in the twenty-first century, as far back as I can remember, my friends and I have had access to technology and social media. However, my parents raised me with a solid understanding of how to use technology responsibly and sparingly. Enrolling me in the Junior Guard program helped with this concept, where I was so busy all summer, that there really wasn’t time for screens. In Junior Guards, I was surrounded by kids that were my age, that had the same desire to adventure and learn from our instructors. These instructors, that were generally aged 16 to 22, became our muses. We admired, followed and trusted them. In an article from a family-event promoter and informational website, Metro Kids, author, Ariana Annunziato quotes Andrew Yankowitz, director of a popular day camp, “If a parent or teacher attempted to get a child to try a new food or overcome a specific fear, it would probably be harder for those adults to succeed. A younger staff member may find it easier to help a child in both of those situations” (Annunziato). Young adult counselors inspire independence and authority often much more, or much easier than a parent or teacher can.
One summer day many years ago, the ocean seemed more furious than ever, casting it’s waves high into the sky, crashing violently against the barnacle covered rocks. I, and my fellow 11-year-olds, were not accustomed to these conditions, and walked quietly, nervously down the beach, board under-arm, after our respected instructor informed us that we were going on a paddle to the “outside”, past where all the waves break. My heart was racing and I felt like turning around, but nobody else did, so I followed the pack of anxious youngsters towards potential death. Soon we were in ankle-deep water, hearts beating faster, legs shaking more intensely. And then we were off; paddling, “turning-turtle”, being thrown off our boards, cold and scared. I heard screams, and then cries, as I just kept paddling for my life through the surf. We had met a lull in the madness, so we circled up, sitting on our boards and all grabbed each others’ hands. Our instructor looked at us and told us, “Look at you guys! You might be crying, you might be shaking, you might be mad at me! But you made it. You are all in one piece, and that is because you trusted me, you stayed together, and you believed in yourself. You believed that you would make it, and so you did”. After some relieved laughs and cries, we paddled back to the beach, most of us falling and getting knocked off our boards again and again, but this time with the faith that we were okay. This idea has stuck with me ever since, that our minds and our own doubt are the only things that limit us. I learned hundreds more of valuable, unforgettable skills and life advice through this program, and my instructors. Having these responsible, young adults influence my childhood summers has provided me with knowledge and tools to succeed later in life, and become a role model to others. These instructors probably have no idea the impact they had on me or the other junior guards. And now, I, as part of the staff, have little insight of the impact that I have on the participants. But I recognize the intense, positive outcome that this program had on me, and try to transfer as much of it as I can to everyone else. I can only hope that my, and my coworker’s efforts affect the summers of the junior guards the way they did me.
These days, it is very easy to get swept away by social media’s expectations and the fantasies it creates. Many of my friends are drawn to the image that social media amplifies. Through these online accounts, conversations become less genuine, experiences become less trustworthy and “role models” become less reliable. In an interview conducted with Walter Heath, coordinator of local community organization, Morro Bay in Bloom, I asked him his advice on how young people should determine and recognize a positive role model versus a negative or fake one in social media. His response was, “I’m not telling you and your generation of young adults anything new when I suggest that having authentic personal experiences, first in your local community and later in other communities is the best way to develop trust … Not to say people can’t be someone they are not in our face-to-face community, but there is a lot to be said for sustained personal interactions under conditions that are not dictated by our posting personas” (Heath). Social media and technology have benefited so many parts of society, however personal, face-to-face interactions will always be more reliable and effective. In order to radiate reliable positivity, we must use technology responsibly and sparingly, looking for more face-to-face confrontations whenever possible. Following generations will likely have more advanced and accessible technology, so setting examples now, of the responsible ways to use technology and emphasizing the greatness of face-to-face interactions, is crucial.
In an article from popular website, Linkedin, author, Martin King explains that even negative actions can result in a positive outcome, by recognizing others’ mistakes and then doing the opposite. “Any wealthy and iconic figure in this world is viewed as a role model because they serve as a true example of what hard-word and dedication can result in …an absolute stranger suffering from extreme poverty is also a role model as they serve as a reminder that nobody wants to be where they are, which acts as a motivating factor…” (King). Although this may be true, strictly negative actions will not benefit someone as well as a balance of good and bad, of what to do and not do. This balance will guide the path we need to achieve our ideal self.
Many people and teenagers believe in having no role models, because they either don’t need them, don’t want them, or want to be a “lone wolf”. There is nothing wrong with not looking up to anybody or learning from others. With this mindset however, one might forget that others still see and are influenced by them. Being on one’s own does not make them any less influential to others. Also, lots of adults and teenagers believe that they are so worthless, boring or unimportant that it doesn’t matter what they do or who sees. But everyone notices everything, and their negative actions or negative mindset could potentially be the only thing a younger sibling or peer learns, transferring this demeaning ideology. Older siblings, peers or teammates need to be careful, passing only positive mindsets and actions onto those younger than themselves.
Everyone you meet has done something admirable, is worth listening to and learning from. As we learn from others and adjust our own character, we must conscientious. Our actions are so impacting to those around and younger than us. The generations to come will be the voices of our future, so the more influential, reliable and positive their role models are now, the better later.
Annunziato, Ariana. "Mentor's at Camp." MetroKids. Accessed 19 Mar. 2018.
Counselors give young campers access to an authority figure closer in age to them than a parent or teacher, which helps inspire campers’ independence, encourages communication and lessens the campers’ fear of authority.
When a camper sees a counselor model positive behavior, the possibility increases that a child will mimic that behavior. “If a parent or teacher attempted to get a child to try a new food or overcome a specific fear, it would probably be harder for those adults to succeed. A younger staff member may find it easier to help a child in both of those situations,” says Andrew Yankowitz, owner and director of Tall Pines Day Camp in Williamstown, NJ.
Set future goals
A teen’s first job plays an important role in his development. It teaches him about work ethic and helps him develop a skill set he can use in the future.
Yankowitz cites his junior counselors as the inspiration behind many campers’ decisions to work at the camp when they are older. “Many of our youngest campers go home and tell their parents that they want to be a CIT or junior counselor. There is a tangible outcome without those parents having to tell their children they should get a job,” he says.
Hilary LaMotte Burke, director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware’s Summer Fun Club, believes that a child benefits from spending time with a college student. “That moment when a child realizes that the counselor from Summer Fun Club who introduced her to building Lego robotics paved the way to her studying computer science in college? The power of those relationships is undeniable,” LaMotte Burke says.
When a child builds a relationship with a teen or young-adult camp counselor, it helps him flourish in many ways. However, the camper is not the only one who reaps the benefits of summer-camp relationships. LaMotte Burke notes, “On numerous occasions we hear from the college-age staff about how a young child or a certain situation changed their outlook, their course of study or their approach to life. There is a symbiotic relationship that takes place” between campers and counselors.
Heath, Walter. 14 Feb. 2018. (Interview)
Matilda Laurie: What does being a role model mean to you? And do you believe that even negative actions and role models can inspire others to do good or is there only such thing as a Positive Role Model? For example, if a family friend gets involved in drugs and starts missing class, could they be interpreted as a role model of what NOT to do, and therefore the outcome is positive?
Walter Heath: I don’t consider myself as much a role model at 62 as I did when I was a parent to maturing children. If you are asking, generally speaking, what qualities makes someone a role model, I feel a role model is someone who shows by example how to behave with integrity. What do I mean by integrity? Being honest, being fair as measured by the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated.
Sure, there are plenty of cases in which someone’s self-destructive or harmful behavior might provide an example of what not to do but, at some point along the way, a positive role model will be helpful or even necessary to sustain through constant action what begins as a revelation and becomes a resolution to not start or continue on a self-destructive path.
Matilda Laurie: Has social media and technology changed influences, particularly on young people, and if so, what's your advice on how young people should determine and recognize a positive role model versus a negative or fake one?
Walter Heath: I’m not telling you and your generation of young adults anything new when I suggest that having authentic personal experiences, first in your local community and later in other communities, is the best way to develop trust. Social media is an amazing innovation and it’s a community in which people can create an image of whomever they would like that community to perceive them to be. That’s not to say people can’t be someone they are not in our face-to-face community. but there is a lot to be said for sustained personal interactions under conditions that are not dictated by our posting personas. That’s one of the valuable benefits of sustained participation in volunteer efforts. There’s no unifying profit motive and, over time, people can be experienced when conditions challenge them to contribute to the greater good.
King, Martin. "Everyone is my role model." Linked In, 15 Sept. 2016. Accessed 2 Feb. 2018.
A role model is defined as a person looked up to by others as an example to be imitated. Modern-day society has somewhat created the belief that this person should more often than not be someone who is more successful or greater than the one who views them as a role model, either in one thing or another. For instance, some of the names mentioned by Kuhle and Mdakhi were the late Nelson Mandela and Steve Jobs, amongst a few others. The one thing that these men share in common is the success they managed to achieve in their respective fields, which ultimately made them greats in this world.
Reading Kuhle and Mdakhi's motivations for their chosen role models, I felt mentally compelled to bring up a world icon myself to include in my piece but in all honesty, despite knowing a large number of influential figures in the world, not one could come to mind as my sole role model. Reason being, I had just found out that, like the sixth successful South African listed on the article (Ajen Sita) everyone is my role model.
In truth, I believe that there are lessons to be learned from everyone and everything in everyday of a person's life.
I always find it interesting how in most situations, it is either a wealthy businessmen, a Grammy-award winning artist or a star sportsman - amongst others - that count as basic role models in the eyes of many.
Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with looking up to people in these positions, neither can I find fault in looking up to a friend, parent or school teacher. Even more interesting, though, is the fact that there are few to no people in the world who look up to unsuccessful people. Certainly nobody will give a street beggar any regard, never-mind viewing them as a role model, right?
The value that most of us fall short of by doing this is in the aforementioned statement: there are lessons to be learned from everyone and everything in everyday of a person's life. Therefore, even beggars can be viewed as role models.
Take it this way, any wealthy and iconic figure in this world is viewed as a role model because they serve as a true example of what hard-work and dedication can result in. In a similar way, an absolute stranger suffering from extreme poverty is also a role model as they serve as a reminder that nobody wants to be where they are, which acts as a motivating factor for people to work for and earn a better living - that alone,is a great lesson learned.