I’m from Australia, where going to summer camp isn’t an option for kids the way it is in the U.S., so my one childhood camp experience was unique. When I started grade 9 my family moved to a new town and I wasn’t happy about it. Shortly after arriving there I was able to take advantage of a rare four-week school camp that had a strong influence on me, changing and shaping me as a person. When I graduated from high school I thought back to that time and sought out a way to re-create for other kids what I had experienced as a young teenager. I decided to study outdoor recreation and took a job leading wilderness trips just outside of Sydney where I worked for 18 months.
In 2011 I was ready for a change so I decided to come to YMCA Camp Becket-Chimney Corners in Massachusetts in search of the quintessential American summer camp experience. I figured I’d spend a summer there, travel around North America, and then head to Europe to continue my adventure. The first part of my plan came to pass—after working as a lifeguard at Becket I spent time in Canada and the Eastern U.S., settling for a little while in Florida. But when I came back up to Becket in the spring of 2012 to visit a friend there for a long weekend, I was introduced to the all-girls Chimney Corners Camp and I fell in love with the idea of it and the way the people who’d been there for years talked about it. I came with a bag packed for three days and I ended up staying through the summer. I’ve been in Y camping ever since.
The endless creativity I saw that first summer at Chimney inspired me to continue working with kids and redefined my passion for wanting to give something back. I spent some time working as program staff at YMCA Camp Mason in New Jersey, and then returned to Chimney this past winter. I started thinking about pursuing a year-round camp job and putting down some roots. It was because of Shannon Donovan-Monti, Chimney’s Executive Director and a long-time former Jewell director, that I knew about the Assistant Director job at Jewell, and it was because of her encouragement that I applied for it.
I feel so appreciative of all the opportunities that I’ve been given working at Y camps, and especially now that I’m part of the leadership staff at Jewell. What’s most important to me is that I give back—the way I see it, my directors and mentors have taken the time to get to know me and have given me this chance and I’m going to make the most of it. I want to give back to the YMCA; I believe in what camp does for kids, especially the ones who are struggling in school or who aren’t fitting in elsewhere because camp can offer a great change for them.
I’m really looking forward to this summer when I’ll be Assistant Camp Director overseeing the LITs, Seniors and Trips. I know I have a lot to learn about how Jewell works and the traditions here, but I really feel like this job is the perfect fit for my camp background and the hard skills I learned when I was leading trips back in Australia. I love the feeling I get during summer camp and the atmosphere that exists when it’s in session. I love that my creativity is so encouraged, and I’m motivated by the creativity I see in the staff and in the campers around me. Camp is the one place where you find people who are so unique and so comfortable with themselves. And I’m so thankful to call it my home.