In December of 2001 I was in front of my 6th grade class, presenting for the first time. I kept my eyes cast down to the floor and held my notes in front of my face, quietly reading them. Speaking in front of my peers terrified me.
Today, some of my coworkers would be surprised to hear that about me. Especially the coworkers who have seen me on stage on a camp morning singing my favorite camp song, Princess Pat, or attempting to play “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars on the ukulele at the staff talent show.
Our campers first start at Camp Harbor View the summer before 6th grade. Many of them are as shy as I was at that age. Now, add in a ferry trip to an island with 249 other kids that they don’t know and activities like sailing and rock climbing that they may have never experienced.
Since joining Camp Harbor View in 2018, I’ve met several CHV alumni who describe the 6th-grade versions of themselves – the first-time camper versions – as shy. Meeting them now, you would never expect these young people to have ever been described as shy. They’re bold and confident, sharing their ideas and thoughts without hesitation.
At Camp Harbor View, with the help of caring staff, they find their voice. Their confidence. It’s where I found mine.
Although I’ve been working at summer programs since I was 18, there was always a part of me that was the shaky 11-year-old version of myself, quietly presenting on Christmas traditions in Belgium. Under the leadership of Executive Director Lisa Fortenberry (and my caring staff), I’ve found my voice at Camp Harbor View by being challenged every day.
A few days into camp, the shy campers have met their peers and group leaders and the shell begins to crack. Our group leaders provide campers the support they need to make new friends and try new things. At the climbing wall and on the high ropes course, you hear camper and staff voices alike call out encouraging words. At the pool, you hear the gentle instructions from lifeguards as they show campers how to blow bubbles in the shallow end or perfect their diving form in the deep end.
Our staff provides a space for young people to safely take risks, which in turn helps them to grow into themselves, building confidence and finding their voice. By the end of their session, they might perform in the talent show. And maybe in a few years, when they turn 18, they’ll lead the morning camp song.