Posts Tagged With: Counselor-in-Training
Meet Jess Jones!
Hometown: Green Mountain, Colorado
For the last couple years between my summers at camp I acted as an LRF, Live in residential Faculty, at the Athenian School in Danville California. My job was a lot like camp, I got to live in the girls dorm with high school students from around the world. Some of my students are from Vietnam, China, Japan, Uganda, Nigeria, the UK, and even Russia. But after camp this year I will be headed back to Colorado to find my next great adventure.
My first summer at Coppercreek was in 2012.
Coppercreek was not my first camp, though admittedly the first one was not a particularly pleasant experience, so my biggest fear in coming to Coppercreek for the first time was that I wouldn’t be a good fit for camp. I think the fact that I am returning for my fourth summer is evidence that this was not the case. I was also a little scared of camping without a tent, but now I prefer to sleep under the stars, tents just get in the way of a spectacular view. One of my biggest fears in general, not just at camp, was of heights. While I am still a little afraid for the last three summers I have challenged myself to try something new on the ropes course during staff training and I have grown a lot from facing this fear.
I have so many favorite activities at camp, one of these is the high ropes course. With one of my biggest fears being heights I am always amazed at the incredible things that campers achieve on the course, and I don’t just mean getting all the way across the Tarzan vines. The high ropes course offers everyone a chance to push themselves and succeed. Some of the most impressive feats I have seen down there are the campers that are terrified deciding to try, even if they don’t make it to the top making that choice to challenge themselves both physically and mentally is astounding and I love to be their cheerleader.
I also really enjoy anytime I can spend time with the Coppercreek Teen Leaders. My crew spends so much time split up at different cabins and activities that when we come back together we have a blast and make the most of it. So Teen Social Night and Outpost are incredible.
I don’t think it is fair to be asked to choose just one favorite memory in all of my time at camp but I will at least choose a very good one. On my very first outpost, which as a mentioned before I was nervous about due to the lack of tents, my campers found out that I had never seen a shooting star. This was made even worse by the fact that I missed every single one before we lay down on our tarp. So it was a very exciting moment when I finally did see my first shooting star, so much so that instead of going to sleep we stayed up and sang a song that one of my CIT’s made up about it, every time I saw one. We were all a giggling mess and certainly couldn’t sleep after all the excitement so we played a few rounds of The Question Game and had to describe our ideal toilets, the thing we most missed at outpost.
The end of camp is bitter sweet, as sad as it is to be saying goodbye some of my favorite moments have been during the last dance, or last meadow meeting of the season. I find it so touching that the only time my girls ever ask me to wake them up early is when a friend is on the first airport shuttle. I wish that camp could last forever but one of the things that makes it so special is that it doesn’t exist on Williams Valley Road 10 months a year because we all take a little piece of it with us in our hearts, Coppercreek is only camp again when we all return with our little pieces of camp and create this magical place again.
I know a lot of things now that I didn’t know before I came to Coppercreek, I know that the frogs in the showers are friendly, headlamps are cool, people actually do gymnastics on horseback, what it says on the top of the Leap of Faith log, making silly dances is a talent…. The list could go on and on but the biggest thing that Coppercreek has taught me is that Camp will never be done teaching me things.
Camp looks different for every single Camper, and Staff Member. There is no magic hint to have the most fun. The one thing that is required to have an amazing summer at Coppercreek is a positive attitude and an open mind. The more you try the more you will enjoy, and if you don’t enjoy a new activity there is always something else to try instead.
“Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering – because you can’t take it all in at once.” ~Audrey Hepburn
Write a post about the CIT program, she says. Sure, I say. Of course.
This should be easy, right? After all, I ran that program for… 8 years? 9? And then oversaw it for another 3? 4?
But where do I start…? How to capture a program that remains, more than 15 years later, one of my proudest projects? Where do I start with a story that runs through my veins to this day?
I lived in The Galaxy cabin before it had a name, and the first group of girls who lived there with me covered the walls in glow-in-the-dark stars, and thus, it earned its title. Before that magical night, I had wanted to call it The Orphanage, because when we first set it up, and the beds were not bunked, they filled THE ENTIRE CABIN and it looked like a scene from a Romanian orphanage.
I slept on the porch, not because I had a huge drive to commune with nature, but because that’s where there was ROOM.
I slept on that porch for seven summers.
And one night, one summer, there was a sudden rainstorm, and the girls (bless them) moved my bed inside right to the very middle of the cabin, and I slept there like a little island, safe and dry and surrounded by the girls I loved (still love) so much.
Before there was Lynne’s Pond, before there was all-camp outpost, the CITs outposted on our own, on a night chosen at random. And on one of those nights, I stayed up until dawn with 3 of my CITs, telling scary stories until we were all too afraid to go to bed and turn our backs on the firelight. And somehow, in our sleep-deprived silliness, we picked up a big stick (to protect us from the mountain-lion-clown-aliens lurking in the shadows, obviously), and called it The Ugly Stick, and brought it back to camp, and each of us cut off a little piece and made Ugly Stick necklaces, to remember our night of giggling, terrified, togetherness.
On the back porch of The Galaxy, there is a very worn sign, nailed down to the floor. I don’t think it is still legible, but when it was painted, it read “Tu Roches Mon Monde;” a literal translation of “You rock my world,” and an expression that remains an inside joke between me and those girls (now women), 15 years later.
Before the Brothaship was built, the boy CITs lived in the Battleship before it had a porch. BEFORE IT HAD SCREENS. And we all crowded onto the front steps – the stoop – to hang out together.
There were always CITs on the earliest morning van to the airport, and so we ALL got up ridiculously early on closing days, to hug and cry in the grey dawn….
And make no mistake, there was crying. Big ugly crying, not just from me and the girls, but from 17 year old boys who towered over me, shaking with sobs because it — the magic, the music, the mayhem of camp — was over. Because they had to leave a place where they have a 10:30pm bedtime; and 8am breakfast is mandatory; and they have to help set and clear the table; and cell phones, iPads, laptops are forbidden; and their cars must stay at home; and a trip to grocery store in a teeny tiny town is considered A Big Outing.
They cry when it’s over. That’s how powerful it is.
As I type this, the whole camp is playing Capture the Flag, crashing through the underbrush in the last streaks of daylight. One of the players is a teenaged boy, dressed in neon yellow tights and an equally neon pink tutu. There are sixteen-year-old girls in head to toe camo, sprinting and strategizing and wishing for a win before we call the game on account of darkness. In a few minutes, they will come up here to the deck, smeared with dirt and facepaint. They will help us account for all the campers; they will pour water and settle excitable ten year olds, and breathlessly recap tonight’s game with the same glee as the seven-year-olds. They will go to bed by 10:30, snug in their sleeping bags. They will get up tomorrow and set tables for breakfast.
And maybe THAT is the story in all of this…. The role of a place so meaningful, so sacred, so SAFE, in the lives of teenagers. I work with young children, now, and we talk so much about safety, for little ones. But I think, maybe, teenagers need it even more. A place where the scariest thing that happens is an imaginary clown alien hiding just outside the light from a fire. A place where, every Friday night, you dress up silly and dance with your friends, without a mind-altering recreational substance in sight. A place where an adult will stay up until dawn, just hanging out with you, and where an inside joke can last forever.
A place where a teenaged boy plays Capture the Flag in a hot pink tutu and no one even bats an eyelash.
Yes. That is the story.
That is the CIT program.
Amy Murray, B.Ed., M.S. worked at Coppercreek for 12 years, as a cabin counsellor, then our CIT Director, Teen Leadership Director, Program Director, Assistant Camp Director, and Dean of Campers. You can visit her blog at www.missnightmutters.com.