In January 2019, at the Camp USA hiring fair I was offered the position of Leadership and Debate Specialist at Camp Mariah. This camp makes up one of six camps operated by The Fresh Air Fund, who work with children from the five New York City boroughs that come from undeserved communities.
Camp Mariah is unique in that it offers its campers a lot more than just a camping experience, as it is part of the Career Awareness Program which is a three-year commitment that consists of activities such as job shadowing and career fair.
Having been being involved in debate and public speaking for 9 years and having held various leadership roles for 7 years, I could not think of a role I was more suited to. As well as my work as a specialist, teaching four classes a day, I also worked as a general counselor with immediate responsibility for six campers a session.
The summer was not always easy and came with unexpected challenges… but that is camp for you, everything will not always go to plan. Every day, I learned something new, usually from the campers who are in the age range of 11 – 14 years old. I was constantly working to improve my lessons as well as attempting to have a meaningful impact on the campers through conversation and the sharing of knowledge in and out of the classroom. Given the class that I was teaching, the scope was definitely there to do so.
At the end of session two, I was named as Specialist of the Session, which was confirmation for me that my main lesson objectives had been met (if campers coming up to me outside of class to talk about debating was not already enough).
I also got the opportunity to be the interviewer for Business at the Camp Mariah Career Fair. This event sees campers interview in various fields that they are interested in and present completed CVs and cover letters that they have worked on in their Career classes. Both times that I did this I was blown away by the campers creativity, expert knowledge of their fields and confidence in their own abilities; I could definitely learn a thing or two.
The Fresh Air Fund’s slogan is ‘because a summer can last a lifetime’, and without doubt that is true for me. My summer in Camp Mariah and the time I spent traveling to different cities (Philadelphia, Washington DC, New Orleans, Miami and of course New York City) will stay with me forever. I have made friends, memories, and skills to last a lifetime, and thankfully the bug bites do not last that long, even though at the time you think they do.