(Sorry these are posted late and out of order...our beloved camp photographer Nina was packing for college!
Today's blog is a guest post from first-time counselor at Camp Spring Creek, Conor. Thanks, Conor, for all your hard work and heartfelt reflections. We're so glad you're here!
So it’s been four weeks since camp officially started and this year’s crop of campers descended on Camp Spring Creek. I’ve now been in North Carolina a little over a month, and can honestly say it has been the quickest five weeks I have ever experienced. At the same time--and I’m aware of how contradictory this sounds--when I think back over everything that has happened since I touched down in Charlotte, it feels like I must have been here for months. Maybe even years. Since I arrived, I have acquired an American Red Cross qualification in lifeguarding and CPR (thanks to our very patient and understanding instructor), attended a genuine sidewalk street dance in Bakersville, experienced 4th of July as the Americans celebrate it and, as well as countless others, met the most amazing group of people (campers, counselors and tutors) I’ve ever encountered.
That’s what really sets this camp above its larger counterparts. Hidden up in the mountains, with no television, Internet or cell phone connection, camp becomes its own little secluded community. As I write this, we consist of approximately fifty-two people; thirty campers, eight counselors, seven tutors, assorted members of staff, and the van der Vorst family.
Before we continue, I would like to apologize for the frequent references to the passing of time in this post--how many weeks camp has been up and running, how long it has been since I arrived, the length of time until camp wraps up, etc. The reason I mention it so often is because I truly cannot believe both how fast time is passing and how much is being achieved in that time. It’s almost as if, in our little dyslexia-orientated enclave in the Blue Ridge Mountains, time is passing differently than in the rest of the world. Having such a small, intimate camp means that during the course of the last four weeks (I did warn you) I’ve really gotten to know all of the campers personally, as well as forging extremely tight bonds with my fellow counselors and colleagues. Though it can be difficult at times, I couldn’t have asked for a better or more diverse group of kids for which to be responsible.
All the children have very different personalities and skill-sets and it’s enthralling to watch as these traits slowly become apparent as camp goes on and the campers grow in confidence. As cliché as it sounds, I have probably learned more from this bunch of 6 to 15 year olds than they have from me. It can be extremely humbling to become engrossed in a debate about education, history, or even philosophy, only to realize part-way through that you are having this very mature discussion with a twelve-year-old (and even more humbling when said twelve-year-old reveals they are at least as knowledgeable, or even more knowledgeable, about the subject than you are!).
Despite only meeting them three weeks ago, the thought that many of these kids will be leaving this [last] week is a source of genuine distress to my fellow counselors and I, which is a testament to both the campers and Camp Spring Creek as a whole. Though we’re not even halfway through our stay at camp, several of the counsellors (including myself) have already decided that we would like to return again next year, provided Susie and Steve will take us back, of course!
Before I arrived in North Carolina I was, quite frankly, at a loss as to what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and where I wanted to go. Already, I can say that choosing to become a counselor at Camp Spring Creek is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I’ve learned an awful lot about myself that I never would have known if I’d stayed at home and it has given me some real direction as to what I want to do after the summer. I remember reading a previous entry on this blog prior to my arrival at camp that described a summer at Camp Spring Creek as "the hardest fun I’ve ever had," pretty much summing up my last few weeks in six words.
And I wouldn’t change a thing.
Fresh from camp, these clips were shot this afternoon when Katey met with the senior campers for their first introduction to backcountry basics. They rotated through stations to practice cooking a meal, packing and fitting a pack, pumping and purifying water, and digging cat holes for a backcountry latrine. They'll spend an additional hour each day this week practicing these skills, as well as time sorting and packing food and gear as they get ready to hit the trails this Friday! At the end of our afternoon, each camper shared "Hopes & Hesitations" by writing down one thing they hope for on the trip and one thing they feel hesitant about. We shared the hopes and hesitations anonymously and debriefed, getting pumped up for the trip.
The campers arrived this weekend! We're thrilled to welcome them and wish everyone safe travels back across the globe as you make your way from Bakersville, North Carolina to home. Here's a little breakdown of info about some of this year's campers:
Thanks to our camp photographer, Nina van der Vorst, for these opening day snapshots. We're having a blast so far!
We're thrilled that we already have 25 campers registered for the first session of camp, and 28 campers registered for the second session. The way the bunks, staffing, and numbers all work out, this translates to 5 open spaces for first session, and 2 open spaces for the second session (just about). If you or someone you know is a good match for Camp Spring Creek, please visit our admissions page, which will inform you about the application and tuition process. Meantime, feel free to reminisce with us by viewing this "opening day" video from a few summers ago:
Last month, we received a very special phone call. Cynia, one of our campers, had exciting news to share. She'd just gotten her report card and saw that she earned straight A's for the first time. What a joy! Cynia called Susie, who says, "I could just hear the excitement in Cynia's voice. She wanted to share her news." We always love hearing from our campers, whether it is to share good news, ask a question, seek advice, or talk about coming back next year.
"More important than the grades Cynia made is the boost the grades gave her self-confidence," says Susie. "We must remember that grades are really extrinsic rewards, but, often they can boost the intrinsic value when you know you have worked hard to achieve something. We are so proud of Cynia and her ability to stick with something until she reaches her goal."
That perseverance is a lifelong skill, and whether the goal is straight A's, learning to rock climb, keeping a promise, or winning a science fair, it takes focus and determination. In celebration of Cynia's achievement, we took a few moments to call Nicole Baker (another inspiring individual interviewed on our blog). “I’ve known Cynia for a number of years and I’ve had the chance most recently to spend time with her on a weekly basis," says Nicole. "She’s always struggled with grades. But when she got her straight A’s report card last month, the first thing she wanted to do was call Susie.”
“Cynia is a firecracker, a spunky spirit for sure," adds Nicole. "She’s one of those kids that has an amazing spark and trajectory. Camp Spring Creek has harnessed that trajectory and guided all Cynia's energy in the best ways. She does have her moments of frustration and getting down on herself. She wants it to come easily. She wants to please everyone and get positive feedback—who doesn’t? All the work she did at Camp Spring Creek gave her the chance to get that and now she’s getting that outside the realm of camp. For example, these recent grades, or when we go to the bookstore now…she can pick out whatever book interests her. She doesn’t have to choose something for an early reader. It’s an exciting time."
Way to go, Cynia! THREE CHEERS!
We briefly surveyed some of our camp staff at the end of this summer and would like to share some of their inspiring responses. This week's reply comes from Sinem. Here's what she had to say: Camp Spring Creek: Explain some of your impressions as a Counselor for Camp Spring Creek. What proved most challenging? What proved most rewarding?
Sinem Kaplan: The most challenging part for me was language and communication, since English isn't my first language. The most rewarding part was when a kid comes and hugs me. That was the best feeling I have ever had. Campers' loves and trusts motivated me a lot. CSC: As a role model to young campers, what were you most surprised by once you got to know the campers and felt comfortable in your role as Camp Counselor?
SK: The suprising part was some rules that put distance between counselors and the campers, for appropriateness, because they were away from their families for a long time for their young ages. We were their families at the camp. I don't remember any difficulties about being a good role model to the campers. Sometimes it was hard to be patient, [smile], but I was able to handle it.
CSC: Where are you now and what are you up to? (Job, school, city, country.)
SK: I am in Istanbul, Turkey. It's my last year at university and I will be an English teacher next year.
CSC: Finally, if you have a fave photo that you took this summer, please share it with us.
SK: Here's my photo. Love to all from Turkey!
We briefly surveyed some of our camp staff at the end of this summer and would like to share some of their inspiring responses. This week's reply comes from camp daughter Marguerite, who has also served as lifeguard, counselor, and all-around helper and motivator. Here's what she had to say: Camp Spring Creek: Explain some of your impressions as a Counselor for Camp Spring Creek. What proved most challenging? What proved most rewarding?
Today’s post is a message from much-loved Camp Spring Creek counselor Jeppe Thanning. After camp, Jeppe traveled for 3 weeks and then returned to his home country of Denmark. He just moved to a city called Aalborg to study Social Science at the university. His (American) football team, Triangle Razorback, just qualified for its 10th straight semifinal. Here’s Jeppe, in his own words: Camp spring Creek is a place with a lot of passion and pride for the things it does. I was really happy when Susie and Steve gave me the opportunity to come to camp and experience that firsthand. I don’t think many people realize how hard the van der Vorsts work; it is incredible. I can’t talk about this summer without mentioning the great staff we had. We had so much fun as a group and I think that was part of our success! It was wonderful to meet a lot people from all over the world. I remember that after one week of camp I thought: This is going to be a lot of hard work, but it’s going to be worth it!
A typical day for a counselor started 15 minutes before we woke up the kids and we were on duty from that moment forward. We helped the kids get ready for the day and assisted those who needed extra help. Then came all the fun!
I personally loved reading hour. I loved listening to the kids read and hear how they improved over the summer. Reading hour was also a good way to get closer with the kids. Counselors also helped in the woodshop, art room or by being lifeguards at the pool until the late afternoon, during “Outdoors” period, which involved new activities every day. Every counselor had a couple of periods off every day, but mine were often spent walking around watching swim classes or hanging in the woodshop. I was really impressed with the level of creativity the kids had in the woodshop. Later, when the kids had study hall, counselors often spent the time with lifeguard practice or meetings. Then we all tried a new activity every single night after dinner. My favorite activity was going to Bakersville to play Capture the Flag (and I think a lot of campers loved that, too). After the evening activity, the kids had a little cabin time before bedtime.
There’s no doubt that working at CSC as a counselor is hard work, but it is totally worth it! It was so rewarding to help the kids and see them improve in so many ways. Some off the kids needed a “big brother” at camp—someone they could trust and rely on—and I can’t think of a bigger compliment than when a kid picks you! I got so close to those campers in particular that they felt like my actual younger brothers and sisters.
One thing that sometimes felt a little tricky about being a counselor and a role model was the age difference between the campers. Some campers needed teenage advice, while others needed a little help with practical stuff. Some needed a firm counselor. Every camper is unique and should therefore be treated a little differently. I used a lot of the experience I have from my former job at a school for ADHD kids, so it felt kind of natural for me to try and see the strength in every child as well as help them with their weaknesses. I hope the campers learned something from me, because I learned a lot from them.
To all the campers: Thank you for making my summer a great one! You guys are always welcome to send me an email or a letter and I promise to write you back!