At Alleghany, our mission is: naturally inspiring growth through honor, loyalty, and friendship.
The word growth in the mission statement refers to personal growth and character development.
The Berkeley Well-Being Institute defines personal growth as: a process of developing new skills, attitudes, actions, or reactions that can have a positive impact on your life and increase your overall well-being.
And we feel we do this very well at Alleghany!
Everything we do at Alleghany is intentional in terms of providing the space and opportunities for campers and staff to personally grow in many areas of character development, but two specific ones that we focus on are independence and confidence.
Fostering a strong sense of independence is a natural by-product of a sleepaway camp. For starters, the campers are away from home without parents or guardians! Of course, they are not left entirely to fend for themselves; our loving and capable counselors are with them during the whole experience. But a counselor is not the same as a parent, and living in the camp setting is not the same as the comforts of home.
Our younger campers are learning to do things independently that they may always do with help at home, such as brushing their hair, showering, brushing their teeth and taking care of basic hygiene needs (with reminders of course!), choosing her own clothes for the day, putting dirty clothes in the laundry bag, hanging up wet towels to dry, and more.
Additionally, the campers take on more ownership of their day, for example choosing when to shower, whether or not to go to free swim or the camp store, which activities to sign up for, what to choose from the salad bar, what to do during free time or Rest Hour, and the list goes on. While our day is quite structured at Alleghany, there is a lot of room for independent decision-making!
And we see this independence flourish beautifully in campers as young as age 7, or rising 2nd graders. They truly can do this!
As the campers get older at Alleghany, they gain even further independence – the oldest ages of campers actually live next door to their counselor, rather than in the tent with their counselor. They can choose whether or not they want to be Hoppers (Dining Hall meal servers), and they take responsibility for helping with a tent of younger campers. They have even more ownership over their schedules and their days at camp.
I know some parents might feel worried about this concept – will she still need me when she gets home? What if she gets too independent?! Of course, she will still need you! Children need us parents not only to ensure their emotional needs are met – such as love, care, and nurturing – but also their physical needs such as food, shelter, housing, clothing, etc. And children will need our advice, our wisdom, our friendship, and care for their whole lives! Summer camp doesn’t take away from those needs. It only enhances the parent-child relationship by freeing up some time and space in that relationship for deeper connection, now that your child is successfully able to manage her own self-care needs and many decisions throughout the day.
Self-confidence comes hand-in-hand with independence… as children realize they can do things on their own, it naturally boosts their belief in themselves – their self-confidence! So first and foremost, the independence fostered at camp naturally leads to a stronger sense of self, and a stronger self-worth.
Confidence is built in many other ways at Alleghany, too.
For one, campers make and keep true friends, and having those deep connections inevitably builds their confidence. Because we live by a No Gossip Policy at Alleghany campers are free to be themselves without worry, fear, or insecurity of being made fun of or bullied. The camper’s true self emerges in this environment, without the social pressures from school and home, helping her to believe in herself truly. And as such, her friends believe in her, too, building even more confidence!
Camp is a great place to take risks – to try something brand new, to step outside of your comfort zone, maybe even to fall or fail at first, and then try again. Maybe they’ll try Canoeing when they’ve always feared the water a little bit; maybe they’ll perform in the Dance Show when they’ve never even taken Dance before! There is so much encouragement at camp from staff and other campers, that our campers find their voices and develop deep and lasting confidence in themselves.
Certainly, these areas of personal growth can be fostered and developed at a day camp, or even in other settings such as sports teams. But when you’re in the camp environment 24/7 for one, three, or six weeks at a time, the personal growth and development in these areas are magnified. The campers aren’t going home every night to mom and dad tucking them in, or reassuring them that they did well today; they don’t have a parent or guardian reminding them to shower, eat their vegetables, or dress warmly for the chilly morning. Again, our counselors are helpful in all of these areas, but it’s not the same as the comforts of home.
I passionately believe that sleepaway camp is truly the best way to develop independence and confidence in children and young adults. They carry these traits with them as they get older and head off to college, jobs, travels, etc. Homesickness during these life steps is diminished, and the young adults feel confident to take risks, try new things, and grow as leaders – which all lead to great success in life! What more could you want for your children?