Our first group of 2016 Junior Counselors (JCs) is completing their final week of their month here with us at GAC. They have been a tremendously positive influence on the camp community, and we are going to miss them when they leave us on Saturday. Last summer (2015) was our first year of our new Junior Counselor program, which replaced the two-week CIT (Counselor in Training) program of previous years. We are thrilled with the training and positive impact our Junior Counselors are having here at GAC.
Our Junior Counselors are being led this summer by enthusiastic, long-time GAC staffers Cappy, Orange, and Moo.
Cappy, who is celebrating her sixth summer at GAC and who works for camp year-round hiring our summer staff, says, “GAC is constantly refining me to be my best self. GAC empowers campers and staff to unplug, enjoy time in the outdoors, create connections, and lean into challenges that create life-changing experiences. Campers and counselors leave more confident, self aware, and open to others, which allows them to create positive social change in home communities. Walking alongside campers for two weeks is such a fun adventure, and every summer I have fun, make friends, and grow!”
Orange is here at GAC for his seventh summer. In past summers, Orange has been a Group Counselor, a Rocks & Ropes Activity Counselor, and a Lead Counselor. Orange’s favorite thing about camp is “seeing kids grow, especially these four weeks, seeing these kids grow into their roles.” What Orange loves is seeing the potential in campers and then watching as they reach their potential. Orange is enjoying working with the Junior Counselors, and is feeling like after having this month with the group, he is really going to miss them. He feels like he has a deeper connection because of spending this month together.
Moo has been at GAC for three summers. Previously, she worked with older girls as a Group Counselor. What Moo especially likes about working at camp is “inspiring others and watching kids challenge themselves.” She recently graduated from the University of Redlands with a degree in film and creative writing. Moo’s favorite camp activity is sailing. About the JC program, Moo says she really enjoys watching them “transition into the counselor role.” She has really enjoyed this group of JCs and says, “They’re a really good group. Really fun!”
For the first two weeks of the program, JCs went on a two-night backpacking trip and participated in many of the trainings we do with our counselors before camp begins, including sessions on communicating with children, using positive group management, and keeping campers safe.
Over their month here at camp, JCs worked towards becoming certified lifeguards, did community service work at a Fresno Women and Children’s shelter, and set up for and led events, including Big Campfire, the carnival, the dance, and the banquet.
At the conclusion of Session 1, we recognized the JCs for all of their hard work earning certifications and learning the skills they need to be successful counselors. At Appreciation Campfire, the JCs were given their official JC shirts (a light green polo shirt) and name badges with their new camp nicknames!
As Session 2 began, our JCs moved into tents with our younger campers and jumped headfirst into providing additional leadership, supervision, and assistance for the counseling staff in their cabins. From the campers’ perspective, our JCs seem like another counselor, as they have the skills, personalities, and camp experience to help provide great experiences for our campers. From our perspective, we know that we have some well-trained future camp counselors who will be joining our staff full time in two or three years (JCs are going into 11th or 12th grade and will be eligible to apply for counseling positions after their freshman year of college).
We look forward to welcoming our next group of Junior Counselors on Sunday!
Here are some pictures of our Junior Counselors in action:
For 2016, we have an experienced team of leaders heading up GAC. Together, they bring more than 100 years of experience to this summer. You can read more about each of them on the Directors page, but here are a few things each of GAC’s Directors have to say about this summer:
Audrey “Sunshine” Monke (32 years)
Sunshine loves spending her summers at GAC. One of her favorite things about camp is being able
to watch campers grow up, become counselors, and then eventually return as camp parents who send their own children to camp. With such a large group of former campers now on staff, Sunshine loves seeing how camp has helped them develop into the leaders they are today. When she gets the chance, Sunshine enjoys teaching campers to waterski, which was her first job at camp back in 1986. Sunshine researches and writes about camp and parenting on her website, Sunshine Parenting.
Steve “Monkey” Monke (28 years)
Monkey especially enjoys camp traditions like the Giant Chipmunk Spotting. He also likes seeing campers stretch themselves and try new things. The new Big Campfire Amphitheater, which he dreamed up a decade ago and came to reality two summers ago, is one of his favorite gathering places in camp. He enjoys using his humor and stage skills to make campers laugh and have fun at camp.
Chelsea “Chelster” Rowe (28 years)
Chelster’s favorite thing about GAC is “seeing kids find their niche that sometimes they don’t find in the ‘real’ world.” For this summer, Chelster is most looking forward to seeing kids try new things and grow their grit. Chelster especially likes checking in with first year families to see how she can support them, and she keeps close tabs on campers at camp, making sure they’re all having a great experience.
Alison “Bean” Moeschberger (23 years)
Bean’s favorite thing about camp is seeing kids grow in their confidence and independence and watching them learn to take care of themselves. Bean is excited about the new “Neature” (nature) program she’s developed to help all of our campers learn all about our indigenous trees. Bean oversees all of the activities and scheduling, and she takes special care to make sure campers get to the activities that they most enjoy.
Andy “Soy” Moeschberger (9 years)
GAC’s newest Director joins the year-round team this year after serving as our summer Operations Director for the past eight summers. Soy’s favorite thing about working at camp is being surrounded by nature without any technology. He is especially looking forward to spending the whole summer at camp this year, as this is the first summer that he will get to spend his entire summer at camp. Soy also loves moving all the campers’ luggage early in the morning on departure days.
Visit the Meet our Staff page to get to know more of our 2016 staff!
“Gold Arrow Camp has taught me to be brave and reach my goals.
If it weren’t for GAC, I wouldn’t be nearly as courageous as I am now.”
Need for Achievement
These are all desirable traits we want for ourselves and for our kids. What do these traits have in common? All are associated with grit, which psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth defined in a 2013 TED Talk as “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals.” Grit correlates with stamina and stick-to-itiveness, Duckworth said, “day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years.” Duckworth is among a handful of researchers and educators who have studied grit in the context of behavior for the last few years in an effort to determine who will be successful in certain settings—such as schools—and why. Surprisingly, perhaps, she found that grit is unrelated to measures of talent: everyone can succeed in a given task, Duckworth said, if they work hard and long enough. Before “grit” became a buzzword in the field of adolescent psychology, researchers, professional educators, and parents alike used words like “persistent,” “hard-working,” and “disciplined” to describe people who exhibited this desirable character trait.
And what was it, exactly, that got this conversation started? According to Forbes education contributor Margaret Perlis, it was the “concern among teachers that kids these days are growing soft.”
Kids (and adults) need grit to succeed. It’s what helps us push past failures, work hard at things we struggle with, and eventually find some success. Grit is something that campers have been growing at GAC since our founder, Manny Vezie, started his “rugged camp for boys” back in 1933. In fact, you might say that Manny was ahead of the curve on the topic of grit; way back in 1962, he lamented to a local newspaper reporter that “[t]oday’s kids are just sitting around getting entertained.” Gold Arrow Camp, he said, was the ideal antidote for what he perceived to be a culture growing in “general softness.”
This summer, we’ll continue to build grit the way we’ve done at camp for more than 80 years. The only difference is that in 2016, we’re going to talk about it more. That’s because when we name grit at the time we see it, campers will become more aware of—and more motivated about—opportunities to grow that passion, perseverance, and stamina Duckworth and others laud in successful children and adolescents. Counselors and campers will be looking for opportunities to witness grit, and we’ll share inspirational stories of people who’ve overcome adversity, challenged themselves, failed, and kept trying. We’ll share stories of our own and others’ grit, and as a camp community, we’ll respond to Duckworth’s call to action: we’ll “be gritty about getting our kids grittier.”
Setting Goals & Overcoming Failures
One of the keys to growing grit is setting goals, getting motivated by them, and working towards them over time. At the opening campfire, counselors ask campers to think about something they want to accomplish at camp. These goals, set during the first days of camp, might include trying something new—maybe something that has been scary in the past—or reaching a specific milestone at an activity. Sometimes it’s a social goal, like getting up on stage in front of a big group or making a new friend. We encourage kids to think of something that is outside their comfort zone and a little bit challenging, because those goals are the ones that lead to the greatest feelings of pride and accomplishment—and the most grit! Goal-setting is an important life skill and something extremely valuable in growing grit. The goals campers set motivate them to persevere, overcome repeated failures, and eventually succeed.
Nowhere is this more evident, perhaps, than in waterskiing, which is among the many challenging recreational activities we learn at GAC. If you’ve tried it, you know it’s not easy. Most kids (and adults) do not master waterskiing on their first try, and a common error when learning is standing up too fast, which leads to a forward fall, or “face plant.” What follows is an unpleasant rush of cold lake water up the nose and a period of awkward floating and struggle to reattach wayward skis, often ripped free of the skier after the fall. It’s understandable, then, why many people give up on waterskiing quickly and never reach the point of enjoying it. But those who stick with it despite failure often end up feeling a great sense of pride and enjoyment in a new sport.
So, this summer, we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty. Whether we’re waterskiing, rock climbing, backpacking, sailing, meeting someone for the first time, or singing on stage, we’re excited to focus on Growing Grit at Gold Arrow Camp!