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Thursday, April 1, 2010

A place called camp

"This is a place where you only have to bring the best of you. Leave all of the unwanted pieces behind. Just be you."

This is the best advice I've ever received. It was not in a classroom, it was not at a church, it was not on a computer screen; it was around a campfire. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to be part of a community of women focused on inspiring and empowering young girls through Girl Scouts and the camp atmosphere. This is a place where we are allowed to leave negativity at home and spend time refreshing our attitude, enjoying the world around us, and focusing on human connections.

As a camp counselor, I get to work on my own growth while encouraging the young Girl Scouts around me to grow. We teach traditional camp responsibilities such as building shelter, fire safety and wilderness awareness. In addition, however, the camp staff works hard to give each girl tools to explore her own independence and learn not only about herself, but also how the world works around her. Girls are encouraged to speak their minds and support their Girl Scout sisters. Counselors spend time learning how to appropriately facilitate young campers' thoughts and let them know that they matter, their thoughts and ideas are important and they have the potential to change the world around them.

My own experience at camp has brought me so much joy and taught me so many valuable lessons. I have learned the importance of taking risks and trying new things. In the span of two weeks, I learned to canoe, worked with fellow campers to complete a teambuilding ropes course, shot an arrow and practiced key survival skills. In addition to learning how to teach various activities and ensure campers' safety, I learned to cure homesickness, befriend the wilderness and encourage girls to be themselves.

In a fast-paced world of mixed messages that demand young women conform to society's outrageous expectations, camp is a place where everyone can let go, laugh, sing, dance and even be a little silly without the world peering over their shoulder. I am extremely proud of the fact that I spend all the time I can supporting a program geared at molding the future woman leaders of our ever-changing world. These girls have inspired me to learn something new every day, and use it, to strive for my best, and not forget to enjoy the journey. My experience at camp taught me not just to listen, but listen actively; not just to work hard, but work passionately; and not just to learn, but learn with the intention of teaching others.

Kayla, our author, grew up in Girl Scouting and is in an active Ambassador troop. She has been through Counselor-in-Training, an intensive one- to two-week resident camp where girls entering grades 11-12 learn what it takes to be a counselor and gain experience working directly with campers. Kayla will be a camp counselor this summer.

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