Embers, Nerds, Mentorship - A Stomping Ground Story
This is the second in a series of posts sharing specific moments from the summer. The big ideas, huge events, and statistics are nothing without these personal stories. Stomping Ground is in so many ways, just a tool to make personal connections and individual stories possible. What is your Stomping Ground Story? Join us to share, listen, and laugh for an online story session next week. Invite friends and feel empowered to come if you weren’t at camp.
Every night when the craziness of camp days winds down, and campers get settled in villages, each tent or cabin group does an activity called Embers. The point of Embers is to debrief the day, unwind, and most importantly, it’s an opportunity at camp to build smaller, more personal group connections. Embers is one of my favorite times at camp because when you are a part of it, you get to share parts of yourself you may not feel comfortable sharing in larger group settings while learning about others in a special, personal, and unique way.
One rainy night at camp, I was hanging out in Robinhood village. After talking with some kids in the pavilion, I decided to check in with another cabin and joined them in the middle of their Embers. I sat down in their circle, and the counselors leading the activity told me each person was sharing “one thing they think others think about them” and “one thing they wish people would think about them.”
I got to listen to campers share that generally, they assume adults and their peers to think negative things about them, and they wish that these same people took more time to get to know them before making assumptions and placing judgment.
One camper’s answer was particularly striking, and the tone of the Embers shifted after she shared. This camper told the group that at school, everyone makes fun of her, and she wishes that just because she wore glasses, people didn’t assume she was “a nerd.” She then got emotional and said that she felt happy people at Stomping Ground didn’t make her feel like a nerd.
I looked around at the other campers, all 10 of them intently listening, then one of her counselors hugged her. The counselor told her that she loved having her in the cabin, and told her own story about having trouble making friends in school at her age, and also remembered the feeling of not fitting in. The other counselor in the cabin told the camper that she was grateful she felt comfortable sharing with the group.
When the rest of the girls saw this happen, they crawled over and two seconds later they were in a group hug on the floor, all of them laughing and telling this camper how cool and nice they thought she was.
It’s not the case that in many youth spaces there is an opportunity to talk to kids about these types of difficult topics. We got to share together what makes it difficult for us to love ourselves, and make sense of judgment we get from others. I felt so grateful to share this moment with this group.
These are the types of experiences that make Stomping Ground so important; the opportunities for connection and relationship-building are incredible. It’s times like these during camp when I am reminded about the power of camp, and its capacity to make people feel connected, supported, and loved.
This type of connection and empathy building is what reminds me that more is possible. Thank you to all of the campers who shared their stories at camp this summer --- reminding me that when we build intentional communities, we empower each other to be vulnerable and share our important stories.