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Climbing the Rockwall at Camp Starlight

Monday, April 24th, 2017

One foot in front of the other, don’t look back, stay focused, keep your eyes on your target. All of these are popular phrases we hear throughout our lives; timeless advice that encourages us to be persistent, dedicated and to face our fears. In many ways, when campers scale the daunting Rockwall, they hear and learn many of the same principles. Climbing the wall can be used as a metaphor for camp, and camp prepares kids and teen for the real world. Campers may think they’re just doing anther camp activity, but a lot of foundational and character work happens on the wall as well.

 

There are some things at camp that are easy, and some things that aren’t. Climbing the rock wall is hard work. It takes muscles and skills you aren’t used to using, it is unfamiliar and can seem overwhelming; f you’ve never done it before, you may feel like it is too much, too hard, or too scary. Camp can bring about many of the same feelings. In the beginning, it can feel like it is too much to take on or that you struggle to get a hold on this new and unfamiliar experience. You may lose your footing, have a slip-up, or even make a mistake that sends you a few steps backward. All of this uncertainty is part of the learning process, and with encouragement from friends, campers slowly begin to embrace the newness of climbing, and of camp and find the courage to step out of their comfort zone.

 

Another way climbing the rock wall is like camp is that as you go through the process, you learn things about yourself. As you get further and further up the wall, you learn that you are stronger, more capable, braver and more determined than you did when both feet were on the ground. You learn that instead of focusing on climbing the whole wall, you simply focus on the next move. Camp is the same way, as you spend your days at camp trying new things, you uncover parts of yourself that you never knew. You discover strengths and passions that you never knew existed, and you learn to enjoy the moment instead of worrying so much about the big picture. A lot of these principles are true for life as well. You learn a lot about yourself when you step out of your comfort zone, and when things feel overwhelming, focusing on the next right step can help any problem seem more manageable.

When you finally make it to the top of the rock wall, there is a sense of accomplishment that can’t be put into words. It makes you realize that with hard work, persistence and a good support system, you really can do anything. Finally making it to the top proves to yourself that ever when things look challenging or even impossible, you are strong and capable, as long as you put your mind to it. Most of the time, campers who make it to the top are eager to come down and climb again, this time with a new perspective and confidence. Similarly, most campers find themselves ready to come back and try the adventure of sleep away camp once the summer has come to a close. They are excited to take the journey again, even if it means there will be days and activities that are hard, even if it means they may make mistakes or feel frustrated, they know that the end result is worth all of the hesitation and fear, and the sense of accomplishment and the self-realization that comes from taking the journey.

 

Climbing the rock wall can be a life changing, eye opening, pivotal moment for many campers. It may be the firs time they’ve faced a fear, or it may be the boost of confidence that they need as they navigate the teenage years. Climbing the rock wall is more than just a fun summer camp activity, just like camp is so much more than a place to go when school is out. Climbing the rock wall builds strength, character, self-confidence, teamwork and encourages campers to face their fears, and the goal of Camp Starlight is to do the same thing.

The Value of Communal Living at a Young Age

Monday, April 10th, 2017

We’ve all heard horror stories of terrible college roommates; the ones who are dirty or irresponsible or rude or have no self-awareness. It raises the question, if these people would have been exposed to more communal living experiences growing up, would they be better roommates as an adult? Living with others is a skill that many children only learn from living with their families. Many children never share a room or living spaces with people other than their family until they go away to college. So it’s no surprise that these children struggle when it comes to etiquette and social norms that come with communal living.

Spending a summer at Camp Starlight is a great way to prepare your child for the realities of living with other people in their adulthood. It helps them become aware of their surroundings and the way they impact the space that they share with others.

Early risers learn to occupy their time quietly and respectfully in the mornings without waking up others. Night owls learn to keep things quiet once it’s time for “lights out.” Children who are used to being disorganized at home learn that their messiness affects others when sharing a cabin, and they begin to learn the importance of organization and cleanliness. Sharing a cabin also teaches campers to respect property that is not theirs, such as the beds in the cabin, the bathrooms, etc. They learn to be aware and careful about how they treat things that are not their own.

From day one, campers are taught about their roles and responsibilities as a member of a specific cabin. Counselors know that this may be a camper’s first time living with others, so they use gentle reminders and guidance to help campers keep their personal spaces tidy, to stay organized, and to respect the other campers around them. Every day at camp is a new opportunity to learn valuable life skills and prepares them to be respectful and responsible roommates in the future.

Living together with 8-10 peers gives campers the chance to learn how to deal with different personality styles. It gives them a chance to practice their communication and conflict management skills.

Nobody goes into parenthood with a goal to raise a nightmare roommate. All parents want to raise kind, considerate, self-aware human beings who others like being around and, eventually, living with. Gifting your child with a summer away at camp is about more than sports and campfires. It is about learning valuable life lessons that will help them become a more productive member of society.

Your child will thank you. And so will his/her future college roommates.

Just Dance!

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Dance is one of the most popular activities at Camp Starlight. It is a great sport and beneficial in many ways. It is first and foremost a really fun way to spend the summer, but it also serves as a creative outlet for campers, is a great workout, and can be helpful for both novice and seasoned dancers to assist in skill progression.

 

Taught by counselors who have a love and passion for dance, this activity is popular with boys and girls of all ages and experience levels. The great thing about participating in dance at Camp Starlight is that you can do so much more than dance. Not only do you get all the perks of a traditional sleep away camp, but there is the option to include other similar activities to your daily routine such as fitness, gymnastics, and cheerleading. Campers can expand their horizons and try different sports and activities that will help them become better dancers.

 

Learning a dance takes dedication and persistence. It is a very physical activity that can push campers out of their comfort zone, but it is also a huge confidence booster. Finally being able to perform a dance you’ve worked so hard to learn is a major accomplishment and a rush many dancers strive for. Dancing is a great way to build self-confidence, and many campers look forward to their time in the dance studio as a way to unwind, relax and let go. It provides a healthy outlet for creative expression and can be a stress reliever for many campers.

 

Dancing will definitely get your heart rate up, which is why it is such a good option for campers looking to stay (or get) physically fit over the summer. The upbeat music, the time spent with friends and the mental and physical challenges that come with learning a new dance make it one of those exercises that doesn’t feel like a workout at all. Dancing is a great cardio workout and improves coordination, flexibility, and balance at the same time.

 

The other thing campers love about dancing at camp is that regardless of skill level or experience, every camper feels welcomed, encouraged and supported. Everyone helps and learns from each other, and it is a safe place to be vulnerable and try new things. So put on your dancing shoes and let your inner dancer shine at Camp Starlight!

 

How Camp Starlight Builds Resilience

Monday, March 20th, 2017

re·sil·ience

rəˈzilyəns/

noun

1.the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

 

Camp has this incredible way of impacting so many people in so many different ways. When campers just think they are spending the summer having fun, they sometimes have no idea the character, the social skills, and the self-confidence they are building at the same time. Camp makes them empathetic towards others. It makes them self aware. It makes them responsible, and kind and brave. It also makes them resilient.

 

Campers are pushed (gently) out of their comfort zones every day when they are at camp. They are encouraged to try new things, to do things that scare them. Sometimes they make mistakes, but from day one are taught that the only time you fail is when you stop trying. Because of this attitude, campers learn to pick themselves up and brush themselves off. They learn to face adversity and struggle with confidence, and that is a skill that they carry with them for the rest of their lives.

 

Counselors teach campers that being tough doesn’t mean you’re void of emotions. You can be brave and scared at the same time. It’s okay to cry, feel frustrated, even walk away if you need a break. It’s okay to ask for help. What is not ok is giving up or giving it less than your best. Campers face different kinds of fears all summer, from attempting the daunting ropes course, swimming for the first time, conquering stage fright or just introducing themselves to new people. But every time they face a fear, even if they struggle, they become a little more resilient each time. They learn to embrace fear, to accept mistakes, and to try one more time when they want to give up.

 

Self-confidence is not something that comes naturally to all campers, but it is something that they develop after a summer at camp. They naturally begin to see themselves as capable, smart, brave, athletic, kind, interesting and strong, and it sets a solid foundation for the people they are becoming.

 

Camp helps mold campers into confident and resilient individuals, all disguised as the best summer they’ve ever had.

Jamming Out at Camp Starlight

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Music can be tied into so many activities and experiences at camp. From songs around the campfire to traveling songs, incorporating music into camp life just comes naturally. For campers who are interested in fine arts such as dance, music and theatre, music is a tool that can be used to express themselves in a way that written or spoken word just can’t. Dance classes give campers an artistic outlet to do what they love, and can create a strong sense of self-confidence.  Camp Starlight gives them the opportunity to explore music as a way of self-expression, and has so many benefits for the growing minds of young campers.

 

Whether it is singing, dancing, or playing an instrument, music works wonders on a growing, adolescent brain, and can teach them things that build their character and helps them become more productive members of society. While they are having fun with their fellow campers and counselors through music instruction, they don’t realize they are becoming more creative, more communicative, and more well- rounded in the process. At the end of the summer, many campers are proud to go home and show off their new musical abilities, and it gives them a sense of pride to have learned something new while they were away from home.

 

Children who learn to play an instrument at an early age benefit in many ways. It teaches perseverance, helps with math and number skills, enhances coordination, improves memory, reading and comprehension skills, and can help sharpen focus and concentration. Studies have shown that learning to play an instrument has lifelong benefits, which is why music and access to instruments is such an important part of camp life. Campers can learn to play the guitar, participate in a live show, or learn about the behind the scenes workings of a real radio station. Camp provides plenty of options for all kinds of personalities and learning styles to really dive into music and everything it can teach them.

 

It is safe to assume that most campers are exposed to music on a daily basis back at home, but at camp they are exposed to different types of music, which broadens their horizons and helps them become more culturally aware. They learn to appreciate different styles of music, and learn the history behind specific music styles, instruments and songs.

 

Camp Starlight is all about providing children with the tools and resources they need to build their character and set up a foundation for a successful future. This goal could not be reached without the incorporation of dance, songs and musical instruments into the every day life of the campers.

Don’t Yuck Someone Else’s Yum

Monday, March 6th, 2017

As an adult, there is nothing more annoying that coming across someone who feels that their opinion is the only opinion and that everyone who doesn’t agree with them is wrong. It’s hard to form and keep friendships with people who don’t appreciate or respect the difference of other people. This is why at Camp Starlight, we implement the “Don’t’ Yuck Someone Else’s Yum” guidelines, which helps campers appreciate and respect the likes and dislikes of other campers.

 

Teaching campers to be respectful of the opinions of others, even when they don’t agree, is just another way going to camp builds character and teaches valuable social skills. Campers are bound to come in contact with people who have different opinions and preferences from them around camp, and counselors encourage campers to embrace the difference and learn to disagree is a respectful way.  This helps prepare campers for the real world and sets them up to be tolerant and accepting members of society.

 

Campers learn that everyone has different likes and dislikes, but that is not helpful or necessary to make others feel bad for their opinions or preferences. Campers who are made to feel bad or embarrassed about their personal preferences are less likely to speak up or say what is on their mind, which is not something that we want to happen at camp, ever. We want to create a safe place where every camper can express himself or herself and have their voices heard without the fear of rejection or judgment. The “Don’t Yuck Someone Else’s Yum,” rule at camp helps to create this safe environment, and teaches campers the value of diversity in the people around them.

 

Teaching campers not to be negative or judgmental about the preferences of others is also helping them learn proper etiquette and manners. Whether it’s at mealtime or any other time around camp when opinions and preferences are expressed, campers are practicing how to be polite and well-rounded individuals, which will undoubtedly transfer over to their world at home.

 

If your child gets home and you turns their nose up to the delicious broccoli and Brussels sprout dinner you’ve prepared, you can kindly remind me of what they learned at camp, and say “Hey, Don’t Yuck My Yum!” We can’t guarantee they’ll eat the veggies, but it will help them be respectful of the different opinions and tastes of the people around them.

Lights…Camera…Action!!

Monday, February 20th, 2017

 

The lights dim, the crowd falls silent, and the only sound is your heartbeat pounding in your chest. The curtain opens, and for a half of a second, you freak out internally. Until you take a deep breath, say your first line, and relax. The energy from the crowd is contagious; they laugh when they are supposed to and they hang onto your every word. They are connecting with the character you’ve worked so hard to create, and by the end of the show, you aren’t sure where your character ends and you begin. The audience erupts in applause, the curtain closes, and the entire cast hugs and high fives each other. It was a performance you worked so hard for, that you put your time and effort and heart into, and it turned out great. You feel a tiny little buzz deep down that is excited to do it again, to be up on stage, to transform into another character, completely different from this one.

 

Dance, theater and performing arts is what draws many campers to camp in the first place. With exceptional fine arts programs, Camp Starlight gives campers the opportunity to conquer stage fright, work as a team, break out of their comfort zone, learn the value of dedication and practice, and explore a new form of self-expression. But the benefits of the theatre are not just for those in the spotlight. Campers who work behind the scenes with costume design, lighting, sound effects and setting up the stage get a first-hand look at everything that comes with putting together a successful show.

 

Campers are encouraged and instructed by counselors who have a passion for the arts, and who can help campers step out of their comfort zone in a place that is safe and judgment free. Counselors act as role models for aspiring performers and can inspire campers to put on an excellent show by working together, encouraging each other, and having fun.

 

There is a sense of accomplishment and pride that comes from focusing intently on a project from start to finish, and finally seeing it all come to life at the end. Whether they’re on stage of behind the scenes, theater and other performing arts programs at camp help campers feel like they are part of something bigger, gives them a sense of purpose, boosts their self-confidence and gives them another tool to communicate and express themselves.

 

Its time for you to shine! It’s time to face your fears, transform into someone completely different and connect with other campers in a fun and creative way. Theatre has a magical way of bringing all different types of people together, just like camp.

The 8 Reasons You’re Already Excited About Summer 2017

Monday, January 30th, 2017

If you’re already planning and excited about next summer, you’re not alone. You’re one of the many campers who make going away to camp a part of their summer experience year after year. Here are 8 reasons why you’re already looking forward to summer 2017:

 

  1. You get to see old friends- When asked, most campers say seeing old friends is the #1 reason they are excited to get back to camp. Social media, texting, emails and phone calls throughout the year are great, but there is nothing like after a busy school year reconnecting with old friends!
  2. Campfires- there is something about the singing crickets, the crackling of the fire, good friends all around, S’mores on the fire, and those whacky, silly campfire songs that make summer camp so much fun.
  3. Outdoor Adventures- more than likely, you don’t live in a place where you can easily access an impressive ropes course or mountain biking trails, or the chance to go camping in the mountains. At camp, you have access to all of these adventures just steps from your cabin.
  4. Freedom- You’ve worked so hard all year to get good grades, contribute around the house, participate in sports and other afterschool activities, that summer camp is a nice break from all of those responsibilities. At camp, you’re free to relax!
  5. Special Events- from pool parties and talent shows, to laser tag and MTV night, campers are always excited about special events! You never really know what to expect with these special events, all you know is that it’s going to be awesome and it’ll be a night you won’t soon forget!
  6. Reconnecting with Nature- when you leave camp, it can feel kind of weird to spend the next few months sitting in a classroom, or coming home to sit and play video games. Camp gives you a new appreciation for the outdoors, and being outside all of the time becomes a part of who you are. Many campers are excited to breathe the fresh mountain air, cannonball into the refreshing lake, and experience quiet time with nature throughout camp.
  7. The Food- Even at the best schools, cafeteria food is still cafeteria food, and can get boring after a while. Thankfully, coming to camp means you have a wide variety of food options to choose from, and all of it is delicious! Remember the breakfast sandwiches? Remember the ice cream sundaes? Remember the cookouts? Healthy and delicious options are always available for bust, hungry campers!
  8. The Traditions- if next summer will be your first summer as a repeat camper, you have something really exciting waiting for you! Your time as the new camper is over, and now you’re a P-R-O! You already have a hang of the traditions, the rituals, the songs and customs that happen at camp. You now have the opportunity to teach the new campers! If this is your third or fourth summer returning to camp, you know that even though there are some things that stay the same, every camp experience is new and different and exciting!

 

It’s not too early to start counting down the days until summer 2017. It’ll be here before you know it, and you’ll be packing your bags and heading back to one of your favorite places on the planet. There is so much to look forward to, and these are just SOME of the many reasons kids are already so excited to get back to camp! Why are you pumped about getting back to camp?

What I Learned From a Summer at Camp Starlight

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

My mom has this ritual of asking me, every day, about what I learned that day. Sometimes I shrug and say “I don’t know,” and other times I spit out interesting facts about blue whales or Egyptian pyramids or volcanoes that I learned that day at school. So in the car the day I got home from a summer at Camp Starlight, I wasn’t surprised when she asked me what I had learned while being away. She was surprised, however, at my response.

 

I told her that I learned a lot of new skills that I would never have experienced if I had stayed home. I learned how to play lacrosse and sail. I learned to fish and learned a lot of crazy songs that have been stuck in my head all summer. I learned how to get from one side of camp to the other in the shortest amount of time, I learned how to make the perfect S’more, and even learned how to paint. I was exposed to so many new opportunities and experiences, that I felt like I was learning something new every day!

 

But in the first few days at home, I kept thinking about other things I learned while I was at camp. Things that were more about character than skill. Things that will help me in life more than knowing the perfect ratio of chocolate to marshmallow ratio on a S’more. When Jessi and I had that big disagreement, our counselors walked us through a communication plan that left both of us feeling heard, understood and we walked away with our issue totally resolved. I learned how to recognize when someone was feeling left out or lonely, and quickly invited them to sit, play or hang out with me. I learned a lot about how to interact with different people and learned to appreciate differences in people without judgment. At the end of the summer, I realized that sometimes I was so focused on the quantity of friends that I have, that I wasn’t focused on the quality. After spending a summer at camp, I learned the importance of having a handful of true friends who are there for you no matter what, who accept you for who you are, and who are honest and real with you.

 

I learned quickly that I’m a naturally messy and unorganized person, but that keeping my stuff picked up and clean in areas that I share with others is a sign of respect, and learned quickly to live in close proximity with other people and respecting boundaries and personal space. I learned to compromise, to be flexible, and how to manage my time.

 

I learned that I can, in fact, function without my cell phone and that not everything I do has to be documented through a “selfie.” I learned that without a cell phone glued to my side, I could focus more on the actual experience rather than getting the perfect shot, choosing the best filter, and then waiting impatiently for my friends to “like” and “comment” on the picture through social media.

 

I didn’t overwhelm my dear ‘ol mom with all of these things that I learned, and instead just gave her little stories here and there to demonstrate all of the new things I had learned at camp. Sometimes, she was the one telling me about the difference that she noticed in me, things that I had learned that made an obvious difference in my attitude and character. She noticed I was more patient with my little sister, more helpful to her and my dad, I was a better team player for my soccer team, and as school rolled around, she noticed I was focusing more on my grades.

 

I learned a lot at Camp Starlight. Some of the things are basic skills that are fun to know, while others are foundational qualities that I really feel with set me up for better relationships and experiences for the rest of my life. I’m thankful that going to camp was such a fun and natural way to learn so many new things.

How Campers and Staff Become Leaders at Camp Starlight

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

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“Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others” – John Quincy Adams

 

From the moment you wake up at camp until the moment you fall asleep, you have countless opportunities to inspire, encourage, support, love and empower those around you. There will be many times throughout the day when you see someone struggling, whether it is with homesickness, trying over and over again to get up on their skis, or finding the courage to try the ropes course. At any given moment, you have the chance to be a leader by serving others. They may need some advice, an extra hand or just someone to listen. When you go out of your way to help others, that is a characteristic of a leader.

 

You don’t have to be a camp counselor to be a leader. You can lead by following directions, being honest, showing good sportsmanship, acting with dignity and being kind to others. You never know who is watching and there is usually a good chance that a younger or newer camper is watching you to see how you deal with certain situations. Whether you make the right choices are not, people are watching and will do what you do. It is important to do the right thing, even if nobody is watching. This is another true characteristic of a leader.

 

Although everyone has the opportunity to become a leader every day, some will be trusted with a valuable role to lead others. As a big brother or a big sister, you can help younger and less experienced campers get a feel for what camp is like. It is a very big responsibility to be a mentor to someone else, and campers take it very seriously.   Campers have the responsibility of being a big sister or big brother and lead by serving. They take the younger campers needs and wants into consideration and help make their adjustment to camp easy.  They know that being a leader is not about them, it’s about how they can build up and encourage those that are following them.

 

Camp counselors get a unique opportunity to learn how to lead at camp.  Not only are they responsible for day to day activities, organizing events, and making sure everyone is safe, they are also role models. The way they talk and think and act is being watched by hundreds of little eyes every day. They lead by example, showing kindness and patience to everyone around them.  They empower others by encouraging them to do things they are afraid to do, standing by them when they fall down and offering a hand to help them back up.  Many camper say they look up to their camp counselors, and strive to be a counselor themselves one day.

 

When campers return to their normal life, they put the leadership skills they learned at camp to use.  They have an easier time standing up to peer pressure, they speak up to bullies, and they follow directions in class and show good sportsmanship on the field.  They are leaders in every aspect of their lives, because of what they learned at camp.

 

You don’t have to have a title to be a leader. A leader is someone who simply empowers others, serves others, and works as a team player.  At camp, campers will learn the true traits of a leader, and will carry with them for the rest of their lives.