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A Lesson (Re)Learned About Camp Counselors

The summer of 2021 at Chestnut Lake Camp was an intense experience for me. Even after 45 years spent at camp — including 27 years as a director of camps or leading camp programs across North America — the combination of being in a new camp with the influence of COVID-19 presented complex challenges. I expect to be reflecting on the lessons learned from the summer for the rest of my career, and though many elements of this pandemic-impacted season were unique, I continue to feel that the biggest takeaway from the summer is one that I had appreciated already for a very long time: nothing matters more at camp than a great staff team, especially a camp’s counselors.

While we are working on many dimensions of camp preparation with a greater sense of preparedness in a world that has changed in real ways forever, nothing is a higher priority for us than identifying and developing the very best young adults and professionals for 2022. There are real obstacles making this hard due to the upside-down nature of our current climate, but it is critically important to overcome these at all costs. Staff members make camp work, and that begins with the counselors that care for children at a vulnerable time (for the kids as individuals, and for the universe that surrounds all young people today). In thinking about how important this is, I am reminded of a story from my childhood that speaks to this in a very personal way.

It was 1982. I was spending another summer at my summer camp, and I never coveted anything as much I did the pair of high-top Converse Weapon basketball sneakers that my counselor, Todd, wore. Todd was more of a tennis player than a basketball star and I already had more than a few pairs of sneakers of my own. But what I wanted more than anything else was to actually be Todd, and the Converse sneakers that he wore seemed to be the easiest way to make that transformation happen.

Todd was from Maryland, many miles from where I grew up in Philadelphia. He was gregarious and intelligent – qualities that I couldn’t claim as great strengths of mine at the time. Todd was seven years older than me and knew so much stuff that I didn’t. We were not very similar, but I wanted to be just like him. And why did I feel this way?  Because Todd was my camp counselor. For the previous six summers at camp, I had enjoyed many of the counselors that landed in my cabin. And while a number of them had done a good job overall to take care of me and my friends, no other counselor was like Todd.

The real connection I had to Todd was born out of the way that he spoke to me and the way that he treated me. He shared his passion for various things in a way that was enthralling, and he was an incredible storyteller who had the ability to draw me in. He would share tales from history, from the wide variety of musical interests that he had, from his travels around the world, and he taught me about morals and ethics that were important to him and that he felt should be important to me. Todd kept much of his personal and family life totally private – I don’t remember if he was an only child or had siblings – but he seemed to care about everything I was willing to share with him. He advised me when I struggled with things, he gave me a shoulder to cry on when Heather told me that she wouldn’t go to the dance with me, he protected me from Charlie when he assailed me after a basketball game, and Todd let me know of his displeasure when a few of us stepped outside the lines and got caught sneaking out to another cabin in camp.

The sneakers were not so remarkable, but I thought they represented Todd’s essence. Todd knew that I liked them, and for the big game against Camp Akiba he let me wear them (I had to put on a couple of extra pairs of socks to make that work.) And then camp ended in that abrupt way that it always seemed to, and as usual, I was not ready yet to say goodbye. We streamed out of the cabin to high-five each other, without so much as a hug because we were 12-year-old boys and we didn’t do that. I was the last one there when it came time to leave with my parents. Todd came over to me and I gave him a hug. He comforted me after letting go as he saw the tears welling up in my eyes. He told me that he’d see me next summer and he reminded me of some of the things I had learned, how I had done a great job, and that he was proud of the leadership I showed over the previous weeks. I left sad for the sake of losing this time with him, but full of strength for the guidance he had provided.

Todd was not so different than some of the counselors and role models that spend their summers at camps near and far. In fact, there were staff members that were even more incredible and talented than Todd was at all sorts of camps, including Chestnut Lake, this past summer. I looked around as our campers were preparing to leave on buses at the end of our sessions and saw many of our campers holding onto their staff members that cared for them, desperately wishing that the camp season would not end. In that embrace, they were quite literally holding onto the role model that they found who could understand them. If given the choice, many campers would have forgone getting onto the bus to instead tag along with their counselor for just a little bit longer. Some campers would rather stay at camp, hugging their counselor, somehow putting off the inevitable end to a relationship that mattered to them in a deeply meaningful way.

In 1982, saying goodbye to Todd was a separation that could not be avoided – at best, I could hope to see Todd again in ten months or beg him to respond to a letter that I would send to Emory that he would almost certainly ignore. Today, campers may try to stay connected to counselors through social media (even when we advise their counselors to maintain a relationship only at camp). But when the summer is over, the summer is over. The impression that a great counselor has made may only sustain through the memories of a child who is soon going to be in the position of giving back to an even younger child in much the same way. But that impression, in and of itself, can be so profound.

The most valuable asset that our camps have are those young adults and older adults who have committed themselves to lead through their direct work with children while they’re miles away from home. The staff at camp will never be perfect, and they won’t always say what a camp director wants them to say. But they can be such great teachers and coaches for kids, and they are still able to be eager learners themselves. They should have boundless energy, and they can be deeply spiritual and inspiring. They will soon understand the responsibilities they have in the demanding position of caring for campers, and if we do a good job in guiding them, they can feel unaffected by the pressure from parents while still delivering exactly the experience for that child that every parent desires. Like Todd, they could become the person who by the end of the camp season makes all the difference to ensure that a child’s summer is the very best it can be and in some way helps to support real growth. This is what makes the job of a camp counselor so important, and it is our responsibility to find and honor these individuals at our camp. This has our full attention now, just as it should.

And maybe, if we can find more people like Todd, a Chestnut Lake counselor will find a discreet moment to slip their pair of white and red Converse sneakers into a camper’s duffel bag before they leave so that they can find an extra-special gift when they get home. I remember opening my bag back in 1982 to find those shoes, and that’s why I’ve kept them for 40 years.

Memories from a Summer Lost

By Aaron Selkow, CLC Owner/Director

In her book, A Manufactured Wilderness, Abigail A. Van Slyck refers to summer camps as, “ …a central feature of North American life – for the children who attend them, for the adults who work at them, and even for the former campers of all ages who cherish vivid (if not exclusively pleasant) memories of their camp experiences.” Van Slyck’s examination provides many other insights into how camps became such a valued and dynamic asset to the American experience, but at a time when we watch the summer come to a close after most camps (including Chestnut Lake) were unable to operate for the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 crisis, I underlined this sentence while searching for some inspiration.

My memories of camp – as a child tugging at the leg of my parents to let me stay, as a camper for ten summers, as a young adult staff member for four seasons, and as a camp professional for more than 25 years and counting – are vivid, and as Van Slyck suggests parenthetically, they are not exclusively pleasant. As a young child, I made a friend that is still the person I turn to when I need to laugh. In subsequent summers, I would arrive as an only child to find my brothers waiting for me at camp; ten months apart without so much as a call could do nothing to dim the powerful glow of positive energy, shared exploration, and reinforcement that we offered each other. I found my first crush at camp, stumbled through my first kiss on the bridge after a dance, and learned to make a fire. Of course, I also had other experiences in my youth at camp that counter-balanced those idyllic ones. I upset other campers by excluding them from our inner circle. I told untruths to counselors to get out of trouble, and I flexed my ego in ways that have led to a lifetime search for more self-awareness and humility. And while I may have learned to build a fire – once even starting it with a homemade bow drill – I also threw caterpillars in a few. And once, after an overnight trip with my own campers as their beloved role model and counselor, I was the one that encouraged us all to throw eggs from the van while I stood atop the moving vehicle. When we returned to camp, a phone call from a civilian with great vision and a pencil landed our group in a conversation with the camp’s director. He threatened to send the kids home if they didn’t confess, and he meant it. As my co-counselor and I watched our boys stand up to the pressure being asserted by a man who once served as a translator in a Japanese POW camp, we felt pride to see them protecting us. Later that day, however, we cracked. As we walked to the director’s house – certain we would be sent from our summer home – we felt the weight of our poor decisions and anticipated the course of our lives veering towards a much darker and lonelier place. I have wondered for years what might have been different had we actually been fired that day. He must have somehow known that the second chance afforded us as 18 year-olds would contribute to our rehabilitation into upstanding adults, professionals, spouses, and parents.

That was not a high point in my counselor career, though it taught me a valuable lesson. Better memories were formed and more lessons learned when I bonded with children that continue to reach out to me today to share good news and tough times because we trust and respect each other. In my first summer as a counselor in 1987, I was shifted to live with a group of 14-year-olds at my ripe-old-age of 17 and – for the first time – allowed myself to be truly vulnerable. When I said goodbye to them, I let tears flow freely. For all of the years since then, I’ve become more aware and protective of the need for being real, allow my emotions to show, and provide a counterpoint to the toxic masculinity that can be absorbed by kids when they’re so impressionable. When my role shifted to leadership in the summer, I suddenly understood that camp was not only just for me any longer – I was there to serve others and my job was to be a protective factor that could help the next generation of campers make their own memories in an environment that was safe: safe for them to try new things, to be open to new people, to fail forward, and to be given second chances to discover the best versions of themselves that were somewhere amidst the woods, lakes, cabins, dining halls, and other architecture of these intentionally-constructed, but still simple, environments.

Now fast-forward to the summer of 2020 and a virus has ruined these kinds of experiences for too many of our children.

There are camps that ran this summer despite the restrictions and hurdles of COVID-19, but not enough to serve the needs and desires of all children, young adults, and parents across North America who want the memories due to them this year. Those camps did so at great risks and costs, while others – like Chestnut Lake Camp – made their own decisions to shutter for the season to protect our campers and staff from those very same risks. Each camp needed to assess the massive complexities of this moment and be true to their mission and character, as our leaders did at Chestnut Lake. Never before was the very existence of summer camps threatened in this way; no time before forced the passionate and dynamic leaders of camps to make the choice of camp or no camp for families.

The advent of technology and a digital age that has altered how our children learn and connect to others, the greater risks of liability and security that plague society, the high costs of operating immersive programs, and even the destruction of nature and resources could not keep camps from opening before 2020. Camps and camp leaders adapted, innovated, and worked their way through contemporary challenges to ensure that another generation of children could discover themselves and each other at camp. While the pandemic outbreak we continue to navigate may have stolen the opportunities for countless campers, staff, parents, alumni, and other stakeholders to create new, vivid memories at camp in 2020, the very existence of this extraordinary catastrophe has become an opportunity for a true camp memory to form.

In years from now, our children will remember the summer that was lost to COVID-19. Some children and adults will actually look back at this summer as one where they felt like a Trailblazer if they happen to be at one of the camps that has found a pathway through the logistics, limitations, bureaucracy, and understandable concerns to operate in chaos. There will be memories therein for a relatively small group of children that will be able to look back on being among the first to wear a mask at Color War, to have temperature checks become as common as water breaks, and to submit COVID test results as a means of admission to their Happy Place. But it’s as much a memory for the exponentially greater number of people who have had to adjust to a summer without – what greater story of resiliency have we ever had than the need to cope with a summer of camp denied?

Simon Sinek – in Together is Better – suggests that, “Our struggles are short-term steps we must take on our way to long-term success.” The story of summer camp – whether one written by a researcher like Van Slyck or as part of a personal narrative – has always been replete with memories of joy as well as struggle. Friendships and broken hearts, successes and failures, and dreams realized and shattered all dot the scatter plots of experiences for camp people. The summer of 2020 should be that short-term, kick-in-the-teeth moment that can lead to even more special long-term success. This is our perfect chance to become stronger, smarter, and more creative. We tend to like the tales of comebacks and rebounds from adverse conditions because they inspire us to believe that things can get better, and that problems can be fixed. This should be a Comeback Story for the ages.

Right now, there are many broken aspects of our lives that are impacting the way that young people will someday grow into older people. Van Slyck describes summer camps as, “fertile sites for examining a constellation of concerns that have informed – that continue to inform – conceptions of modern childhood.” Let this season of missed memories inform conceptions for our children – and for all of us that continue to have a childish spirit that was shaped at summer camp – to help them to be more resistant and strong as they count down the days to their next summer at camp. Until then, let us appreciate the camp memories that are present now. And let’s continue our countdown towards the summer of 2021, when we reopen to families and staff never before more ready to celebrate the very existence of our society’s greatest antidote to a widespread viral threat: summer camp.

A Summer Camp Tradition at CLC

Every summer, Lou and Sue Flego visit Chestnut Lake Summer Camp for one of the campers’ favorite traditions: Square Dancing! Younger campers learn simple calls like “Up to the middle with a tap, tap, tap.” while returning campers perfect calls like “Step to an ocean wave.” For two days, the campers practice in their 8-person sets, preparing for the competition on the final night.

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Once the squares are set, the girls take over and coordinate what each set will wear. The build-up to the final competition is pretty intense. The championship bracelets that the winners receive are highly coveted at Chestnut Lake Camp. The campers show up for the final competition decked out in coordinating outfits…there is plenty of plaid and pigtails!

Before the competition begins, Sue lightens the mood with some line dancing. Staff and campers join in as they slide and turn to “Popcorn” and “Montego Bay.” Once the line dancing is finished, the sets form their squares and prepare for the dance-off. Counselors take their spots outside of the squares, cheering on their campers and coaching them through the difficult calls. Lou, Sue, Debbi and Paul judge the squares and ask the sets that miss calls to sit down. After a while, there are only two sets left. Lou pauses to congratulate the final two squares and then moves them to the center.

As the music starts back up, all of the campers and counselors cheer the final sets on as they concentrate on executing each and every call. After the calls become more and more difficult, Lou finally has one of the sets sit down, which means that the only square still standing has won the special Lou & Sue bracelets!

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Square Dancing with Lou and Sue is a favorite Summer Camp Tradition at Chestnut Lake!

Chestnut Lake Summer Camp 4th of July Regatta

The first week of Chestnut Lake Summer Camp 2015 has been amazing! We started preparing for our 4th of July celebration on Saturday.  The lower campus decorated their bunks in patriotic themes while the upper campus turned our golf carts into parade floats.

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On the afternoon of the 4th, our older campers organized a parade for the younger campers. Kaya, Sani and Varsity marched in formation and drove their floats down Chestnut Lake Avenue. As the procession passed the campers, the Kaya, Sani and Varsity threw candy as everyone cheered. Uncle Sam even made a guest appearance at Chestnut Lake Summer Camp!

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Next up for our Independence Day celebration was Regatta. Campers organized into their tribes and started preparing to sail their boats in the pool, but first they watched their division leaders compete in a belly busting competition which was amusing as well. Later that evening the whole camp gathered together on the slope.  We all joined in for the singing of the National Anthem. As the National Anthem ended, our annual fireworks display began high above the stage.

Now the campers are anxiously waiting to see their families on Visiting Day at Chestnut Lake Summer Camp!

Tribal Campfire

Tribal Campfire is one of the most popular traditions at Chestnut Lake Camp. On our first Friday night of the session, after the Community Service Award winners were announced, new campers and staff found out if they would be a Minsi Wolf or an Unami Turtle. The returning campers, who were dressed head to toe in white or green, were bursting with excitement as they prepared to accept new members to their tribes.

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Dressed in red, the new campers and staff were led from the campfire site down to the lake where they stood in a large circle and recited the Tribal Oath with Debbi and Paul. d7290a4e-d25f-4f54-9297-26aab9236e43

As they walked back to the campfire, the Unami Turtles and Minsi Wolves lined either side of the path creating a special and unique atmosphere.

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At the campfire, the two teams sat with their tribes and sang their tribal chants. The new campers and staff in each division were called to stand in front of the campfire while blue team members painted a stripe of their new tribe’s color on each of their cheeks. Excitement grew as they waited for Paul to tell them to face their new tribe. As each group turned around, members of the Unami Turtles and the Minsi Wolves ran to greet their new members. Next up….the first tribal competition.

Staff Talent Show

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The first few days of the CLC Summer of 2015 have been full of energy and                excitement. Campers and staff have been spending time getting to know each other and enjoying all of the fun activities that CLC has to offer.  One of the activities that campers always look forward to is our Staff Talent Show. Our staff never disappoint when it comes to entertainment. This year, there were a variety of performances      ranging from musical numbers to choreographed dances and other crazy acts! Highlights of the evening included the performance of the Beyonce hit “Single Ladies.”     Many of the campers said it was one of their favorites!

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Our campers are now very excited to put on their own Talent Show next week.

Dutch Auction and Hypnotist

The fourth week of camp got off to a great start as everyone welcomed the new campers. That night, we held one of the funniest activities at CLC: the Dutch Auction. Campers meet at the hockey pavilion where they are given special instructions for the activity. To start, they are given a set amount of time to return to their bunks and fill one laundry bag with as many random items as possible. When the campers can go, they leave the hockey pavilion faster than parents on Visiting Day! Once they return, they are given many scenarios to act out utilizing whatever they have in their bag. Scenarios include how Curtis should have proposed to Niki, best Let It Go impression, best Division Leader impersonation and best superhero outfit.

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Dutch Auction was followed a couple nights later by another one of the funniest activities, The Hypnotist. Everyone gathered on the cookout slope to listen to the hypnotist’s power of persuasion. After explaining how hypnotism works, everyone followed along with some basic relaxation exercises. Next, several staff members were selected to go on stage to participate in the show. Staff members quickly found themselves relaxing to the point of sleep, primed for hilarious suggestions from the hypnotist. One of the suggestions included watching an imaginary tv, surfing the channels, going between comedies, sad dramas and scary movies. Some of the other suggestions included driving a bus over curvy roads, trying to get the attention of the ice cream truck that produces the best ice cream in the world and Twitter’s $1,000,000 selfie contest. The authentic reactions of the staff kept everyone amazed and laughing the whole time.

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What a great way to start second session!

Chestnut Lake Camp Staff Talent Show

Three words can be used to describe the main purpose of Chestnut Lake Camp, and those words are. . .

BRING IT OUT!

This catchphrase aims to encourage campers to try new things. Participating in activities they’ve never tried before can bring out a whole new side of a camper!

Our staff firmly believes in the “Bring It Out” philosophy. Each year within the first few days of camp, the staff put on a talent show. They put on the show to encourage the campers to not be afraid to get involved.

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Counselors and division leaders perform silly parody skits, lip syncs, dances, and anything else they want to showcase.

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Later in the summer, campers themselves are able to participate in the annual camper talent show!

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From Camper to Counselor at CLC – Melissa’s Journey!

Melissa Cabrero - CounselorHello Everyone! My name is Melissa Cabrero, I’m 19 years old and I’m from White Plains, NY. This summer I will be a 2nd year counselor at CLC; however, I’ve been involved with camp for much longer! Originally I was a Kaya in the summer of 2008 and have attended every year of camp since. I am a first year student at the University of Delaware with a Communications major and a minor in Theater Performance.  My favorite hobbies include singing, acting, bowling, and anything camp related! I have two older brothers, a younger sister, and an adorable cat named Cyrus.

What is your favorite memory of camp?
The first day of camp is still so clear to me.  I sat at a table with complete strangers, all of us sharing sideways glances and polite smiles. Little did I know that these girls would essentially become my best friends for the next 6 weeks and even after that summer! Some of the best memories I have of camp come from the traditions that CLC gives to all campers. Events like Nancy Tucker, Breakfast and Boating, camp plays, and the highly anticipated Tribal War at the end of each session are engrained in my mind. Of course, along with the traditions, some of the things I remember most are “the little moments”. The aroma of campfires being made, the cool water from the lake, and the sweet chocolate chip cookies after cookout are just a few of the senses that I was fortunate to experience. And of course, everyone remembers their ‘bunk memories’! The greatest thing about them was the moment you had to share at closing campfire, nobody would have any idea what you were talking about while you and your bunk laughed your head off.

Melissa Cabrero

My Varsity Experience

A large part of my time at CLC was spent in Varsity. While having an extra half hour of sleep might seem like a small amount, in camp it was the greatest gift that could ever be bestowed. Seriously, it makes a big difference! Aside from sleeping in, varsity campers also got to stay up later, get a ‘midnight’ snack, and were overall granted much more freedom, especially with electives! The counselors were also integral to my experience. When we were feeling restless we could count on Niki and Kalen to stop whatever they were doing and put on a spectacle, making us laugh until our stomachs and cheeks hurt.  My favorite part of Varsity was being able to take on leadership positions.  While I was nervous about completing a task as a group, in the end planning Halloween, performing our beautification project, and even doing community service hours taught me a lot about working with others. More importantly, it taught me to accept what others had to say. Being exposed to such ideals at a younger age has allowed me to see the world in a new light and shaped my optimistic attitude.

The trips were also a major highlight of my varsity year! Going to Washington D.C, Boston, Salem, Lake George, and Lake Placid was so much fun! What made it even more special was the bus rides with Rich, solving riddles, and giggling in the tents with our flash lights on as we talked about everything hilarious that day. One thing I really enjoyed was staying at the Olympic training center! The idea of eating with athletes of that level was mind boggling, but seeing their plates loaded with food was even more shocking!

Melissa Cabrero - Western Adventure

Preparing to Become a Counselor: My LT Year

The first four years years at camp were filled with endless amounts of laughs, tears, and memories. There is truly nothing else like spending a summer with no cares or worries. It’s the epitome of Hakuna Matata! The idea alone makes me want to go back. However, what happens when you reach the age where you actually have to think about college and ‘real life’? Does the happiness end? Not at all!  My LT year was described to me as the year I would be trained to work as a counselor. Responsibility? Work? Nobody signed me up for this! (Well I mean I did sign up for it but you get the idea). Don’t let the term ‘Leadership Trainee’ intimidate you, because my LT year was arguably the best year I had as a camper! Yes, there is a responsibility you have to fill. Yes, you have to do a community wide service project. However, in no way does that mean that the fun stops. If anything, it’s a new twist on camp life and it spices things up! Not only did I get to give back to the community that gave me so much growing up, but my summer was filled with constant college trips and a 10 day trip to a state I had never even been to before. Singing in the car with Jerrell and five other girls for countless hours doesn’t sound like a responsibility to me. If anything it sounds like a blast, which is exactly what it was! Coincidentally, one of the college visits I made was to the University of Delaware… and look where I am now! Going to Utah was truly a once in a lifetime experience. ‘Roughing’ it out in Cataract canyon’s incomparable to any outdoor camp experience. Who can say that they went white water rafting in the true wilderness, with nothing around them but the sounds of a running river and stars unobstructed by city lights? Then, after spending days on the river, you get to go to Park City and suddenly a hotel bed becomes the best thing you’ve ever slept on. The sudden realization that the LT year is the last year you can call yourself a camper exposes you to things you might have missed before. You start to notice how sweet the grass smells. You start to hear how laughs echo throughout all of camp. You start to notice the flames of the campfire dissipate into the starry sky. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that your LT year makes you stop and think of just how lucky you are. In a word, your LT year makes you thankful. To anyone that reads this, whether you are a parent or a camper please do yourself a favor and experience the LT year. It has opened so many opportunities outside of camp (particularly in college and internships) that you cannot get anywhere else. You are essentially spending 6 weeks having a blast and not realizing all of the vital communication skills you need for any career or environment. The LT year was by far the best way to transition from camper to counselor because it taught me that discipline and fun can go hand in hand if you work hard for it.

Melissa Cabrero - Counselor

What was the transition from camper to counselor like?

Changing my role from ‘camper’ to ‘counselor’ was one of the most fearful things I had ever done. I was entering a side of camp I had never been on before, and the sheer idea of the unknown made the nights before training week sleepless ones. What if my idea of camp would change? What if I wouldn’t like it the way I had previously?  Looking back on such thoughts makes me laugh at myself. I had nothing to worry about! Whenever I am asked about counselor life, two questions pop up. The most popular one is, what do you do? Well it depends; do you want the long answer of the short answer? The short answer would be, “everything”. What do I do? I call my mom on my nights off and tell her how much I love my job. I appreciate naps 100x more than the average person should. I take on the roles of parent, sister, and friend. I stay up all night before the campers arrive to make sure their favorite stuffed animals are ready to be snuggled with. I sit at the health center for an hour or two to ice a swollen ankle. I provide the best hugs to anyone who wants one. I hold back my sobs when packing day arrives, trying to cover my teary eyes with sunglasses. As I get way too emotional while explaining this, I am quickly cut off with the next popular question, what do you make? This answer is not nearly as complex because it’s so clear to me. I make a difference.

Melissa Cabrero - Theater

What is the biggest thing that CLC has taught you?

HOW MUCH I LOVE THEATRE! The auditions for High School Musical in 2008 opened my eyes to how much I enjoyed performing. I did the play to say that I tried it, not to discover one my life’s passions! I can still name every single counselor who has ever helped or taught me about the arts, because they made that much of an impact on me. Even as I look at past programs and costumes, I can tell a story about each rip, splash of paint, and paintbrush that hides behind the backstage curtains. It is absolutely insane to me that I have been able to experience every show camp has put on. Now I get to become one of the drama counselors for the new group of aspiring actors and actresses (I may or may not have teared up when I found out that this would be my new position…don’t judge me)! Every year after that I have auditioned for high school, community, and college productions…and I have everyone who encouraged me to pursue theater to thank!

Melissa Cabrero - Tribal ChiefMelissa Cabrero - Chief

Why is camp important to you?

As I get ready for my next summer at CLC, I can’t help but be in awe of how much I have grown as a person. I entered camp a soft-spoken girl with no idea of who she was or wanted to be. It was because of the ideals that CLC instills upon its entire community that gave me the courage to audition for The Wizard of Oz in middle school. Had it not been for camp, theater would be nowhere on my radar, let  alone as a possible career choice and passionate hobby of mine. Never in my life did I think I would ever participate in a thing like Tribal war, or even become a tribal chief for the best team ever, the Minsi Wolves! (Can you tell I’m a little bias?) When the announcement was made, my jaw had never dropped so low in my life. I can promise you that! If it weren’t for camp, I wouldn’t have written my college essay about my growth as a person and role in community leadership. I would have never been elected President of my school or made friends from Russia, Spain, France, and Israel! I owe so much to this 6-week haven, because it essentially made me the person that I am today. There really are no other words for it… I’m Chestnut till I die!