The Junior Counselor (JC) Summer at Camp Alleghany for Girls teaches our newest and youngest counselors a multitude of skills and facets of life.
But as the “JC Mom,” or leader of the JC Program last summer, I never imagined I could do just as much, if not more to stretch my own wings, move into my strength, and offer them guideposts they could rely on.
Can we do it? Yes we can!
At the beginning, I was excited, but also nervous and even in doubt of myself:
- Would I have the answers to their questions?
- Would I be a positive role model?
- Could I successfully guide their journey through the most amazing job one could hope for?
The response to each of these questions was yes. By the end of the summer, I found myself more confident than I’ve ever been before. And as a recent college graduate, I felt more comfortable in my ideas for my path forward into the future.
I had the privilege to watch twelve bright, strong young women grow into confident, knowledgeable leaders, counselors, and role models for those around them. I felt so honored to be a part of that, and I would never have guessed how much I would come to love the JCs as I do.
Watching each of them grow exponentially made me wonder if I grew as much during my own JC summer? It certainly didn’t feel like it at the time, but I suppose it’s difficult to tell in the moment.
From Shy to Confident
That said, I could definitely see a clear progression for the JCs this past summer. I watched them tackle difficult situations with patience and determination; I observed as they applied knowledge from class and staff training to real camp life; and I felt so proud when, as the weeks went on, they approached me more with stories of bonding with campers, encouraging girls out of their comfort zones, and loving being a counselor.
In my mind, people become camp counselors because they want to make a difference. We want to change lives in myriad small ways, and sometimes even in one big, single instance.
We want to help others, be good role models, and inspire young people to be the best versions of themselves — to love and be confident and sow deep friendships. For the JCs, who were first campers and then “16s” (what is now our Leaders-In-Training Program), being a counselor is still new enough and unknown enough that maybe they haven’t pinpointed exactly why they want to be a counselor.
Maybe they apply and join as JCs because it seems like the next step into the magic of our camp’s — ‘Ghany’s — progression.
Or maybe they want to emulate a particular counselor they once looked up to as a camper.
Regardless of the individual reasons, the JCs I guided for eight weeks during Summer 2019 had such pure intentions. They made a difference in the lives of so many campers and they shone as role models. They were so present in their role as counselor.
One of the most important parts of the job, I believe, is being present — forging connections and physically being there to talk, listen, and engage. We always talk about how camp translates to life outside of camp, and I think this is particularly applicable. There are so many people for whom listening is not automatic or even considered, but coming away from camp we take not only the skill, but the respect and desire to listen to others.
We listen to befriend.
We listen to offer help.
We listen to understand.
Similarly, asking for help and being vulnerable are not signs of weakness. Communicating and presenting honest displays of self are so precious. These were key parts of the JC class. We did a lot of activities centering on trust and communicating, whether directly or indirectly.
I typically participated — and not just guided — in these exercises with the JCs because I believe that I can’t expect others to do something if I’m not willing to do it myself. And it was just an important part of the bonding process between JC Mom and JC daughters! One of my and the JCs’ favorite activities was a “step in if…” circle, where we asked questions and stepped in if something applied to you.
Overall, I can say that last summer was my favorite summer at camp. Seeing the JC program really work on a group of earnest and untried counselors was truly magical. I can’t say enough how proud I am, still, of all that the JCs of 2019 accomplished and learned. It was honestly such a special time.
— Anna Morgan, Alumna, Camp Alleghany for Girls