This past summer was my first ever “camp” experience, and after only spending one summer at J&R I truly understand the meaning of camp. I came to my first J&R training day unsure of what to expect, but quickly recognized it was a place full of growth and adventure for the children and staff.
I spent my summer in the Shalom unit learning new approaches to life from the second and third graders. My favorite part of the day was watching the kids run off the bus with pure excitement for the day ahead of them. They would immediately proceed to ask what activities we would be doing for the day and anxiously await flagpole. This brief moment every day was what made me realize how big of an impact we had on each and every kid. Working with children can be chaotic and surely puts our patience to the test, but what I learned from them is what makes J&R special. Each child is unique in their own great way and is still able to have small successes every day, whether it’s moving up a swim level, learning to play a new sport, or expressing themselves through art.
Their personalities shaped the way I approach challenges and interact with different people in college and in my community. The optimism of the second and third graders is something I strive to have. We all have to do things that are not our favorite, but the optimism the “Shalomies” had to take on in new and different activities was never short of amazing.
J&R has taught me new ways to be creative, social, supportive and a leader for children and others around me. Rainy days were often reoccurring and something the staff and kids do not hope for. However, with rainy days came some of the best bonding times between the campers and the staff. One rainy day, the Shalom girls and staff decided to host a talent show. Instead of passing the time how we normally we would, we celebrated the talents of each Shalom girl. We all laughed and cheered on each lively and one-of-a-kind talent. Because of how supportive and creative J&R is, the talent show made an appearance at every rainy day from there on out.
Being that this past summer was my first time at J&R, I was definitely not as social and outgoing as the other J&R staff members. However, I quickly learned camp songs, camp traditions, and formed friendships with new people that helped me become more social outside of J&R. The environment of J&R allows for the children and staff to grow socially and become open to new people different than themselves. Because of camp, I now have friends I love seeing outside of camp, along with a new way to bond with co-workers and be more socially outgoing.
This upcoming summer I am looking forward to taking on a new role at camp… Karmiel Unit Head! Although I spent this past summer with a much different age group, I cannot wait to be a leader to my staff and be a part of many first experiences and memories with our youngest and, of course, most adorable campers. I am most excited about taking on the new challenges of the Karmiel unit, having a greater leadership role, and improving upon skills useful outside of J&R such as working with a team, problem solving, and time management. Working with new co-workers and children is something I continually look forward to, and this summer will again be nothing short of new experiences for all of us. I hope to learn even more in an environment filled with children and other young minds. I can’t wait to see what great things happen this summer with a younger group of J&R campers!