Springfield, MA: Spending seven summers at the YMCA's Camp Wilder allowed me to blossom in many ways. The staff emphasized above all maintaining values. Through a system of receiving a certain color bead in front of camp every time you demonstrated a value, I was able to learn and cherish the values of being caring (red), having responsibility (green), respect (yellow) and honesty (blue). I would have a contest with myself to see how many I could earn in one week. It became routine for me to volunteer to help pick up litter, treat others as I wanted to be treated, and always tell the truth. This system created the basis for the high values I hold today.
As a camper I flourished in my ability to make friends and also to be one. Day after day I was with people I would most likely never have met at my private school. I was able to interact with kids outside my community who also represented different cultures. As a result, I not only became more aware, but also more open to those who are different.
When I went through the counselor-in-training program, I matured significantly. I gained a better understanding of how to control myself and prevent others from wrongdoings. I was taught simple ideas that worked. To help five-year-olds be good listeners but still have fun, you should allow the obedient ones special privileges like holding one of my personal belongings (clipboard, water bottle, etc.),
being the line leader, being able to sit next to me when sitting is needed. When the less obedient children see what they could be doing, they become better behaved. Reward for good behavior equals privileges. This concept can be used in almost any aspect of life.
After being a CIT for two years, I volunteered there for a summer, during which I gained valuable work experience and insight into the dedication and hard work it takes.
My experience at Camp Wilder gave me a better understanding of what I want to do with my life. I always knew that I liked being the protector and the educator, but until then I had concluded that my calling in life was to be a teacher. Now, however, I want to protect the rights of others by becoming a lawyer. A lot of injustice occurs in our society and I have the desire to be a "big sister" to anyone who asks.
I do not know where I'd be today without my Camp Wilder experiences. They helped me in ways I cannot even explain. The dedication I learned has caused me to strive for a higher education. Many lessons were taught demonstrating how I should crawl before I walk. For these reasons, and many more, I am interested in attaining a law degree - all thanks to a great summer program.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.