2018 Summer Reflections with Laura
After camp ends I always feel a bit sad. It takes me a few weeks to recalibrate and stop dreaming about things that happened during the summer. I revel in the later mornings, sitting during meals and taking naps when I want, but I sorely miss the high paced fun and collaborative energy we thrive on during the summer. Looking back on our six weeks of camp I feel fortunate enough to say for the fourth summer in the row, we had the best summer yet.
A New Year Round Assistant Director - Klee
This fall also welcomes several new changes. Allison Klee (or “Klee” what everyone calls her at camp) is coming on board as our first year round staff member. Her role as assistant director will include camper recruitment and communication with families, staff recruitment, staff hiring, and partnership development. Klee has worked at Stomping Ground for 3 summers. This past summer Klee was the Panda, or village director for the Robinhood and Viking villages. She managed the staff, navigated camper issues, communicated with parents and built culture in both villages. She also is always pitching in with Kate and the program team to set up evening programs or special events.
One of the best parts about working with Klee is how fast she moves. When she sets her mind on making something better she becomes laser focused and quickly makes the changes to get results. For example. This summer during ArtsFest we wanted to find a way to spice up the schedule and make it more applicable for teenagers. We decided that we would open up the main boardwalk of camp after 10pm and keep it open and staffed until 12. Our idea was that teens, once we closed each night and cabins finished embers, might be interested in hanging out with each other outside of their cabins or villages. We put Klee in charge of this time which we quickly started referring to as “the After Party”. Klee went to town making themes, orchestrating staff to help make sure that each night was memorable and catered to all kinds of kids and their interests. I can not wait to see what Klee does now that she is working to make Stomping Ground better year round.
This summer I found myself being extra grateful for some of our returning campers.
As we think about how culture is created at camp it is becoming obvious that the campers who come back each summer are the ones holding onto Stomping Ground traditions that are valuable to them. Arguably even more than the staff, campers help to set the tone and use their agency to change and adapt the program to fit their needs. It is the returning campers who sign up to lead activities, or join in on the kid board meeting, or pitch in to clean the makerspace.
It is also returning campers that helped create some of our new traditions
My favorite new tradition of the summer is business time. Each morning all of camp gathers at the picnic table to hear a brief weather report, any changes in the schedule, and announcement and reminders from staff. Then campers have a chance to share things they might be trying to start or lead throughout the day. For example, maybe Wyatt is leading a Slaps (card game) tournament at 11 and people who are interested should meet at the crab apple tree, or Pepper is leading a game of Zombie tag and to head to the Explorer Pavilion at 10 am etc. This new tradition sets us up to have even more camper directed play and camper empowered play happening at camp.
My post summer reflection would not be complete without the recognition of our summer staff. I feel so privileged to have worked with such a dedicated and generous group of people. The friendships and connections that happen as a result of working so closely together for 7 weeks are unparalleled. This particular group of people inspired me to dream big about what is possible with camp and to work hard to create a space that is inclusive and compassionate for everyone.
Columbia Social Work Program
This fall I will be attending Columbia University to study social work. **Editor’s note: Laura will still be working for Stomping Ground throughout her time in school.** In two years I will graduate with an MSW and a concentration in social enterprise administration. I desperately want to better serve the campers that join us each summer. I want to increase the impact that Stomping Ground can have by partnering with agencies to welcome kids to camp that don’t typically have this kind of opportunity. I firmly believe that camp is one of the best places to build empathy for one another, to learn to take other’s perspectives, and to build respectful and compassionate relationships. I think that communities like camp have the ability to radically change the world by proving to one kid, and one family at a time that more is possible. I am looking forward to building the network and gathering the knowledge to further our mission and increase our impact.
I have been in NYC for about a week now. I just finished orientation, settled into a new apartment, and started classes. I can not wait to update you along the way! Thank you for partnering with us as we continue to change, improve, and realign the community of camp.