Head Counselors provide leadership and support for our counselors and campers and make sure each camper is having a fantastic experience at GAC. Each Head Counselor has five to seven cabin groups with whom they work closely. On the first evening of camp, Head Counselors stop by each of their cabin groups’ campfires to introduce themselves and let campers know that they are someone campers can always go to if they need anything. Throughout the session, Head Counselors join their cabin groups for meals, activities, and campfires. They also get feedback from campers on evaluations and follow up with campers to make sure they have the best experience possible at GAC.
Our 2017 team of Head Counselors includes an experienced group who bring 49 summers of GAC experience with them to camp. Three of them (Mocha, Punkie, and Wonder) started as campers here at camp! Because of all their years of experience at camp, Head Counselors are able to assist both campers and counselors with any challenges that come up at camp.
We’re excited to introduce you to our 2017 Head Counselors: Swag, Bambino, Wonder, Punkie, Puddles, and Mocha!
Fort Wayne, Indiana native Collin “Swag” McCracken is excited to be back at GAC for his 5th summer. His favorite part about camp is the kids, and in his spare time he enjoys sports, writing, movies, laughing, adventures, camping, and traveling. Swag has been a group counselor and has hosted morning assembly for several years.
Tyler “Bambino” Munoz joins us for his 3rd summer in the Sierras this year. Last year, as a group counselor in Cabin 28, he introduced camp to The Energy Bus, which we adopted as our camp-wide theme for this summer! He’s really looking forward to connecting with campers this summer. When he isn’t passing out tickets to get on his energy bus, Bambino is a Teaching Assistant at California State University, Fresno (Kinesiology) who enjoys Sports, reading, exploring the outdoors, talking to others, and hanging out at the beach.
Stevie “Wonder” Goodrich is back at Gold Arrow for the 12th summer this year. His favorite part about working at camp is watching the kids grow and change from year to year (though sleeping under the stars comes in a close second!). Wonder just graduated from USC and is starting at UCLA’s School of Law in August. He enjoys hiking, rollerblading, spontaneous adventures, and watching movies.
Paige “Punkie” Mueller is a student photographer who enjoys painting, photography, hammocking, and running when she’s not at camp. This is her 11th year at GAC, and she keeps coming back because she loves that she can be herself while helping others grow in their abilities, strengths, and pursue their passions.
Lynsi “Puddles” Nauman comes to the high Sierra from the midwest, where she is a student at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. At camp she enjoys stand-up paddle boarding, canyoneering, and sailing. When she’s back at school, her hobbies include hiking, biking, and learning about personality types. She’s really excited to be at camp because she gets to meet and get to know campers and counselors from all over the country and the world!
Meredith “Mocha” Monke has been spending her summers at GAC for as long as she can remember, literally. The daughter of directors Steve and Audrey Monke, Mocha has been at camp since 1996. For the past few summers, Mocha has been a group counselor with younger campers. She recently graduated from Westmont College with a degree in English. She served as an RA (Resident Assistant) and writing tutor. One of Mocha’s favorite parts of camp is reading aloud to campers. Recently, her favorite read aloud book has been Wonder.
We are thrilled to welcome such an experienced group to lead our 2017 campers and counselors!
On Episode 17 of the GAC Pog-cast, Soy is joined by longtime GAC staffer Delta. He and Delta chat about what she’s doing while she’s not at camp, how she brings camp into her classroom and what keeps Delta coming back to camp.
Of course, there’s a Joke of the Cast (it features a wedding in space!) and the inspiring words of Roald Dahl in a GACspiration.
By the end of high school, teens need to have mastered more skills than just reading, writing and math to be successful, thriving adults.
Gold Arrow Camp’s Outdoor Leadership Course (OLC) helps campers develop important life skills that stretch them far beyond academics: Leadership, Independence, Communication Skills, Resilience, and Responsibility.
The OLC is a two-week program for young people interested in developing important life skills. Trained leaders guide OLC participants on a challenging, six-day, 30-mile backpacking trip into the High Sierras. Throughout the session, campers develop backcountry navigational and survival skills, practice wilderness first aid skills, and participate in GAC activities.
The purpose of OLC is to challenge teens to learn and grow in self-awareness, develop maturity, discover the value of community and working with others to solve problems and accomplish shared objectives. While growing and learning, participants develop five skills vital for success: Leadership, Independence, Communication Skills, Resilience, and Responsibility.
“Being a part of OLC has influenced my life after camp because it taught me how to be a leader and being a part of a high school swim team, being a leader is a big part of staying together as a team.” – Sophia, OLC Participant
After arriving at camp, OLC participants receive leadership training before departing on the backpacking trip. They do exercises in team building, learn conflict resolution techniques, and practice positive communication. While in the wilderness, campers have the opportunity to learn and practice map and compass navigation, outdoor cooking, Leave No Trace principles and ethics, sustainable backcountry living, and wildlife biology.
All OLC participants serve as “Leader of the Day,” which means they use navigational skills to determine which path to take, when to stop for breaks, and what to do about any situations that arise while hiking. At the end of the day, the “Leader of the Day” receives feedback from trip leaders and peers.
Achieving independence is essential to making the transition to adulthood, and participating in challenging outdoor program with other teens is a perfect way to develop the self efficacy needed to feel confident away from home. The hard skills learned during the OLC — navigation, outdoor cooking, wilderness first aid, camping, and hiking — require independence, curiosity, and creative problem solving.
3. Communication Skills
“I really enjoyed getting to discover myself in the woods, thinking and hiking and communicating with my fellow campers.” – Blake, OLC Participant
Effective communication is arguably the most important of all life skills. Trained trip leaders use positive guidance to facilitate reflection, dialogue and group
discussion throughout the program. Leaders encourage campers to think about what happened that day, what their successes and challenges were, and how to grow from those experiences. At the end of the course, all OLC participants have improved communication skills with peers and counselors.
Research shows that wilderness courses are well-suited to teach outdoor skills, self-confidence in general and confidence during adversity. Participation in an outdoor leadership program have a positive impact on emotional intelligence, specifically on stress management and adaptability. All OLC participants set personal and group goals before leaving on the backpacking portion of the course and work to accomplish those goals throughout the session with the help, direction, and encouragement of trip leaders.
A multi-day backpacking trip through the rugged terrain of the High Sierra has days that tax participants both mentally and physically. In the Outdoor Leadership Course, teens learn to push through challenges through encouragement from their trip leaders, supportive group dynamics, and building their self leadership. While surrounded by their peers, they learn just how far they can push themselves. They learn, literally, that they can climb mountains. After their OLC accomplishments, finding a way to make it to sports practice or finishing up a college admissions essay seem easy.
OLC participants are responsible for managing their equipment, completing tasks carefully and on time, admitting their role in mistakes, and working to correct those mistakes. The OLC equips campers to take the initiative to make their own decisions, fulfill obligations, and grow from their experiences.
In addition to the skills OLC participants learn and the growth they experience from the program, there is something else that too many teens don’t have the time to find; genuine face to face FUN!
“What I enjoyed about the OLC was that everyday was different, some days we would do longer hikes, and others we would have lot of time to relax and the enjoy the people and scenery. One of my favorite days out in the backcountry was when when we hiked about 5 miles and then hung out in a river for the rest of the afternoon, and then made quesadillas for dinner. The food was always amazing, and there was always plenty to eat. My favorite lunch was probably Nutella and English muffins. We had a lot of Nutella.” – Charlotte, OLC Participant
We’re thrilled to announce that we’re partnering with The Energy Bus Leadership Journey for Schools to bring The Energy Bus to GAC 2017! As the pilot camp to join the program, we’ll be working closely with the staff of the Jon Gordon companies to develop fun ways to present The Energy Bus ideas to our campers. We believe that many schools and camps would benefit from getting both their staff and campers to live out the positive ideals of The Energy Bus, and we’re excited to be on this bus!
Our journey with The Energy Bus began during the summer of 2016 when counselor Tyler “Bambino” Munoz shared Jon Gordon’s best-selling book The Energy Bus with the young men of cabin 28 by reading it aloud over each session. At the conclusion of each session, he invited his campers to join him on The Energy Bus by giving them a printed bus ticket.
To read Bambino’s whole story and learn about the positive impact he had on his campers, read “Hop on Bambino’s Energy Bus,”
We were so inspired by the impact The Energy Bus had on that small group of campers that we decided to make “Hop on the Energy Bus” our theme for all of camp in 2017.
The Energy Bus book is an allegory for our lives, and shows how making some small, positive changes in how we view the world can make a world of difference. This message of ownership over our lives is a powerful one for children of all ages. In a world that too often sends the message that they will be important “when they’re older”, The Energy Bus shows kids what a big impact they can have on themselves and others right now. By making positive changes in how they see and react to the world, they can and will change it for the better. One of our core values at GAC is “Bringing Positive Changes to the World.” We’re certain that by introducing our campers to the concepts of The Energy Bus, they will be catalysts for positive changes at home, in school, and throughout their lives.
Jon Gordon, author of The Energy Bus, has this to say about why his company started the Energy Bus trainings for schools: “In a world where negativity pervades our education system and schools, we have created a proven model based on The Energy Bus where positive administrators work together with inspired educators to develop positive student leaders who together create an a dynamic and contagious school culture.”
Gold Arrow Camp has been recognized as the first ever Energy Bus Certified Camp, and we have been working closely with Energy Bus Schools director Niki Spears to tailor the program for the camp setting. Sunshine and Bean will be attending a training in March, and Niki will be training our counselors in June to prepare us to lead our campers into a summer full of positive energy!
Energy Bus Schools
To learn more about The Energy Bus, visit Jon Gordon’s website, where you can see many resources related to the program, including the 10 Rules for the Ride of Your Life.
Animated Video Preview of The Energy Bus Training Program
Energy Bus Posters
Pog-Cast Episode 2
On Episode 2 of the GAC POG-CAST, Soy’s back with WOWs and Joke of the Cast, Sunshine shares a GACspiration, and we have an interview with former camper, Junior Counselor, and OLC (Outdoor Leadership Course) participant Will “Quill” Kellogg.
Will was a camper for 7 years, spent a month at camp as a Junior Counselor in 2015, and competed 45 miles of backcountry backpacking in the High Sierra as a member of one of our 2016 OLC trips. Will talks with Sunshine about developing grit at camp, and shares some stories and wisdom about trying things even when they are extremely challenging.
Subscribe to the Pog-Cast here (iTunes).
Pog-Cast Episode 1
On Episode 1 of the GAC POG-CAST, Soy interviews Baboon, a three-year veteran GAC staff member who’s brought a ton of positive energy and fun to camp. You can read more about Baboon in his Meet our Staff article and in the article about him receiving the 2015 Coach’s Award. And, as in every episode, you’ll enjoy a joke of the day, WOWs, and a little GACspiration (inspiration, GAC-style). Enjoy the POG-cast!
Subscribe to the GAC POG-Cast on iTunes!
Meredith “Mocha” Monke is a senior at Westmont College and a three-year veteran GAC counselor. Because her parents (Audrey “Sunshine” and Steve “Monkey” Monke) are the camp owners/directors, Meredith spent all of her childhood summers as a camper. She wrote about her own “grit growing” experiences as a child for a recent creative writing assignment.
By Meredith Monke
I think if I hadn’t grown up at camp I wouldn’t be an outdoorsy person. But camp is where I feel free—breathing fresh air, being myself. There was this little nook between a big rock and a Jeffrey Pine tree on the hill beside the Dining Porch where my sisters and I would play after dinner. Little bark flakes would scatter on the dirt and if you cut one in half, it made a sort of auburn chalk which we’d use to scribble on the rock. Sometimes we’d sit on the rock and just watch the people go by, pretending that they couldn’t see us up on the hill, hiding amongst the trees.
One day my older sister, Gretchen, asked me if I wanted to go sailing with her out on the lake. During camp season, activities run all the time, and sometimes we’d just pop by and join. I wanted to be like her, and I wanted her to think I was cool and adventurous and brave, so I agreed, even though my stomach was flip-flopping just thinking about setting foot in a tippy boat with no one but my sister.
There were a few different kinds of boats, bigger ones in which to fit lots of littler campers and smaller ones for campers to ride in on their own. One time I had gone in the bigger boat with all the “scared” campers and the boat had capsized. A great way to thoroughly convince a bunch of scared kids to be even more scared of sailing! But Gretchen and I were just extra tagalong people that day, and the sailing staff was busy, and Gretchen was confident. I begged to take a bathtub boat and Gretchen looked at me, seeming to say, Seriously? We called them “bathtub boats” because they resembled bathtubs, deep and exactly opposite of what one would call “sleek.” But my favorite thing about these blessed boats was their smooth, slow and steady speed and their unwillingness to capsize, even with the most inept driver. I thought they were a beautiful invention, but my sister wondered what the point of sailing was if all I did was venture in a bathtub boat.
Despite her desire to sail in a faster boat, she accommodated me. Mixed in with jabs about my love of slow speeds were giggles, moments of pretending to be mermaids, and hair blowing in the wind. We hardly made it anywhere in that boat. She steered, and I pulled in (to speed up) and let out (to slow down) the sail. Of course, I was more focused on letting out the sail.
A few years later I was back at the sailing dock with my cabin mates—my peers. They were pairing everyone off to go in smaller boats, but this time, the faster ones. We hopped in a boat, and unlike past sailing experiences, I was put in charge of steering. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, accustomed to my brave big sister taking charge. I squinted my eyes to focus on a rock across the lake, finding a spot at which to aim the boat. We swerved, the waves rocked the boat, and my heart dropped like I was on a roller coaster. I pushed the tiller one way, and the boat would swerve the other way. Then the boat would be straight until some waves decided to angle us in a different direction.
We sailed farther out into the lake than I’d been before, and I saw the sun’s white reflection on the blue lake. I felt the breeze on my sunburnt face. My toes rested in the pile of water in the base of our boat. I chatted and laughed with my friend in the boat. I was free. That’s when I realized that things become less scary once I take the time to figure them out. When I calmed my nerves long enough to look beyond my tunnel vision of the rock across the lake, I experienced the joy of whooshing and splashing across crystal blue water.
My sister, though she teased me at the time, met me where I was in my level of comfort and sailed with me anyway in the slow bathtub boat. Now my sister and I sail together whenever we get the chance, and we cherish those moments flying across the lake. Countless other family memories have emerged over the years because of camp, and now I know to be grateful and to cherish them. They have shaped me to be who I am today.
Join Sunshine for this 30-minute online parenting workshop to:
• Learn the specific social skills researchers have determined are most important for successful friendships and other relationships.
• Identify your own child’s social skills strengths and deficits.
• Gain tools for coaching your child to improved social skills.
This is a free, online workshop offered for Gold Arrow Camp parents and Sunshine Parenting readers. Please feel free to invite other parents to join in on the discussion!
The workshop will last 30 minutes, and Sunshine will stay online for additional questions and discussion after the workshop concludes. Mark your calendars and join Sunshine on September 29 at 11:00 am PDT!
RSVP here to receive the meeting link, a reminder prior to the workshop,
and a pdf handout of notes after the workshop.
“Big Campfire” is a camp tradition dating back to GAC’s earliest years. On the middle Saturday of each two-week session, the entire camp community gathers at our beautiful Big Campfire Amphitheater to enjoy lively entertainment featuring our campers and staff. At Big Campfire, every cabin group gets on stage to perform a skit, a song, or a dance in front of the live audience. For many kids, this is their first time on stage. For others, they love being on the microphone. Either way, it’s a great bonding experience for the group to come together and plan and practice for the “big” night!
This summer featured many original songs and skits and showed the creativity and performance skills of our talented campers and counselors! Here is just a sampling of a few of the skits and songs from summer, 2016. To see even more videos from the summer, visit the 2016 Videos page!
To see more videos from the summer of 2016, visit our 2016 Videos page!
Join Sunshine for an online workshop,
Coaching Your Child to Better Social Skills,
Thursday, September 29, 11:00-11:30 (PDT)
“Friends are everything. They are always there if you have a problem or if you get hurt,
they can always help you up.”
– Patricio, Camper, Age 8
The commonly accepted trajectory of do well in school -> get into a good college -> make a lot of money -> flourish in life is not exactly accurate. You only have to know one unhappy wealthy person to know that’s not the path that will lead to happiness or fulfillment.
What is a more accurate trajectory? good interpersonal (social) skills -> positive relationships -> flourish in life.
Michael Thompson’s statement, “Friendship is the gold of childhood,” stuck with me long after I attended his conference session on the social lives of children. Friendship is not just the gold of childhood, but also of life. In my research for my Master’s degree in Psychology, I looked closely at studies related to friendship, social skills, and well-being. What I found was not surprising. For children, and adults as well, positive relationships are the best predictor of overall happiness and well-being. As parents, teachers, and counselors, we should be putting a primary emphasis on helping kids develop the social skills they need to make and keep friends.
Unfortunately, our culture is not supporting the development of healthy, solid friendships between kids. Friendship is more important than any academic subject or athletic skill, and yet the way our kids spend their time does not reflect this importance. For many kids, there simply isn’t time in their lives for developing strong, close friendships.
What are our kids learning about friendship in this Instagram, Snapchat, and texting era of “friends?” Many boast hundreds, even thousands, of “friends” and “likes” on photos. Yet some of those same kids don’t have one single person in their lives that meets the criteria of a true and trusted friend. Face-to-face social skills, such as being able to read non-verbal cues, are learned through practice. If communication is primarily through media, then those skills are not being honed.
Another cultural factor that is counter-productive to the development of solid friendships is the constant, high-stakes competition our children are constantly in with their peers. Who’s ranked higher at school? Who made the “A” team? Who’s more popular? Often, instead of being truly supportive and encouraging of each other, kids want their peers to fail.
“Friends are those rare people who ask how you are and then wait for an answer.”
– Author Unknown
Making friends, and being a good friend, doesn’t come naturally to all people. And, coupled with the crazy culture we’re in, it’s no surprise that many kids are struggling to form strong friendships.
Friends are the reason campers and counselors return to Gold Arrow Camp year after year. “Make Friends” is one of the three main goals we chant at the opening of camp each session. At camp, there is time for friendship — precious, relaxing time to get to know each other, spend time making memories, and communicating face-to-face. Our whole camp community is built around inclusion, respect, and kindness. There is no competition at camp, no “A” team or “popular” group. Just kids having fun together and learning to live and play with each other, work out disagreements, and become better friends to each other.
Counselors are trained to help kids connect from the moment they get on the bus until the last good bye. Long talks at meals, around the campfire, and under the stars in sleeping bags are uninterrupted by cell phones and other technological distractions. Campers can’t “tune out” by putting earphones in. They stay engaged with each other and learn to connect. Counselors gently coach campers who need to develop social skills in areas such as listening skills, empathy, sharing, flexibility, initiating conversations, and understanding non-verbal cues. They encourage campers to be intentional about being good friends to each other and observant about what they appreciate about their friends.
On the final day of camp, campers are each given a “My Camp Friends” booklet, where they can keep track of each other’s contact information and write each other encouraging notes. Our hope is that our campers will keep their camp friendships strong by staying in contact throughout the school year.
“Friends are awesome, because they stand up for you, and they care for you.”
– Joey, Camper, Age 11
At one final campfire gathering last summer, the Randy Newman song, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” came on during the slide show. A group of four twelve-year-old boys sitting on the bench in front of me spontaneously put their arms around each other and started swaying back and forth, singing along to the song. I will never forget that vivid picture of the power of camp friendships.
Want to get some tips on Coaching Your Child to Better Social Skills? Join Sunshine for an online workshop on Thursday, September 29 from 11-11:30 am (PDT). RSVP here and the meeting link will be sent to you!