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Upper Senior Summer at Camp Starlight

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020

Children often talk about what they want to be when they “grow up” or when they’re “older.” This is a very vague topic, and children often speak of career aspirations such as being a professional athlete, an astronaut, a lawyer, or a CEO of a large corporation. At Camp Starlight, though, when our campers talk about what they want to be when they grow up, they look up to our upper senior campers for guidance.

The Upper Seniors are our oldest campers at 15 years old going into 10th grade. Many of them have been campers since they were Juniors, seven or eight years ago. They are the leaders on campus and truly embody what it means to be a Starlight camper. They take on leadership roles such as leading the Opening Campfire at the beginning of the summer, leading the alma-mater during Olympics, and being a role model for their camp siblings.

While the rest of camp looks upon them for leadership, guidance, and camp wisdom, our Upper Seniors receive special privileges and experience new activities designed just for them. With trips like whitewater rafting and a 3 day overnight in addition to senior favorites such as Camp Rules, Gotcha, and Senior Option, the Upper Senior Summer is filled with firsts for our campers, allowing them to really get the best Starlight has to offer.

However, the true hallmark of any camping career is the friendships and bonds our campers form with one another. Our Upper Senior Boys and Girls live in the Lodge and Lakehouse, respectively. Unlike in other divisions at camp in which each bunk lives in its own building, the Lakehouse and Lodge are large buildings with 4 “bunks” branching off of a large common room. This allows the entire division to live and spend time together under one roof. Not only does this allow current friendships to thrive but it allows for new friendships within the division to form. While it may seem strange to think that campers would form entirely new friendships in their final summer at Starlight, we see it time and time again with our Upper Seniors.

As campers look back upon their years at Starlight, the things they remember may be limited. They will remember large events such as SWF and Olympics. They will also look back upon random bunk moments that they enjoyed like making up a bunk game or tradition. However, what Starlight campers and alumni look back upon most is the relationships that they built that are made to last a lifetime.

THAT is what upper senior summer is about. Younger campers may envy them because they have special activities and can keep food in the bunk. However, by the time our campers reach upper senior summer, they have come to understand that the most important thing that makes Starlight such a special place is the relationships that we create. Upper senior summer is about solidifying the bonds as brothers and sisters with their fellow bunkmates and everybody in the division. Living in the Lakehouse and Lodge brings a completely new perspective for many of our campers, and really allows them to appreciate the people around them at their summer home.

Upper Senior Summer is a culminating year for our campers. They reflect upon their younger years at Starlight while experiencing the best Starlight has to offer with their best friends in the world. The experience is difficult to put into words. So, next time you’re walking around camp and see an upper senior, ask them what it means to them. Everybody’s response may be different, but I guarantee they will all talk about the PEOPLE that make their summer home so special.

The Starlight Playhouse

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

Putting on a musical production is not only hard work, but it is also a lot of fun. Being on stage inspires imagination and creativity. At Camp Starlight, the shows that are put on every summer are among the most memorable part of a camper’s experience. Each Division puts on their own show giving campers their moment in the spotlight. 

At Camp Starlight, not only do campers have the opportunity to perform in the shows but many of them also choose to get involved with the behind-the-scenes activities.  Some help with set building and painting, while others help with costuming and makeup.  Some also work backstage in the technical areas of sound and lighting.  Putting on a new production every week is a team effort and requires a lot of helping hands.

Leading the theater program at Camp Starlight is Jeff Moss, an award-winning Broadway director who has directed well knows actors such as Mickey Rooney and Donald O’ Connor. Jeff has been directing shows at Camp Starlight for OVER 50 YEARS! Needless to say, Jeff has seen and done it all. He has worked with campers of all skills and abilities and knows exactly how to create an environment that is fun and engaging for every cast member, regardless of their role. From the oldest campers to the youngest, everyone looks forward to both participating in the productions as well as seeing the shows produced by the other divisions. 

Each week, the anticipation begins anew as campers audition for their show, hoping to get the role of their choice. Some campers are called back for a second look, after which the roles are assigned.  That’s when the hard work begins. Campers receive their scripts and get down to memorizing their lines. For the remainder of the week, show preparation is a major part of their focus. Every day, the campers attend rehearsal to learn the stage blocking and choreography.  They learn the songs with the musical director and work with the Playhouse staff to put it all together. After one final day of rehearsal, the curtain rises at the Playhouse, and the kids perform in front of the whole camp

Sure, the thought of performing gives some of our campers butterflies in their stomach, but the energy of being on stage, under the lights, and in front of a live audience is powerful.  When the show is over, the kids share a combined sense of joy and relief. They know that through all that hard work, they had a lot of fun, but mostly, they have an enormous sense of pride know that through all that they worked together and accomplished a tremendous achievement.

When it’s all said and done, this experience will live on with them for a very long time. Theater provides many long-lasting benefits. There are many studies that show that participating in drama, even in small roles, contributes to creative thinking, critical reflection, improved collaboration, and better communication.  In addition, drama can help with concentration, self-confidence, and a host of other life skills.

Getting Ready for Camp Starlight

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

This summer, I’m heading off for a two month adventure of a lifetime.  I’m packing my bags and heading off to…

SLEEP AWAY CAMP.

Yep, you heard that right.  I’m heading off to Camp Starlight (along with my 3 kiddos) to head up their media team.

I went to camp once when I was 8.  Camp Summit in North Carolina.  It was the best two weeks of my life.  I always wanted to go back.  Camp Summit no longer exists and life happens as it may.  I never did return as a camper or counselor.  Until now…I’m the 41 year old camper.  This is my kids’ first sleep away camp experience and feelings range from “a little nervous” to “wishes she was already there”.  What’s not lost on me, is the privilege to see and hear my own kids’ camp experience in real time and photograph it.  It’s an incredible opportunity.  But it’s not just my own children’s experiences, it’s the lives of 560 boys and girls.  As a photographer at a summer camp, being a mom is the biggest role I’ll play.  I’ll photograph each child as my own.  As an artist, and a mom, I want the parents at home, who are hitting “refresh” on their computers to feel and see and hear the same things through my photographs.   It’s a huge responsibility and I’m 100% up for the challenge.

The Starlight media team consists of three photographers (including myself) and a videographer.  The next 8 weeks will be a creative journey the likes I’ve never known.  Between telling Camp Starlight’s daily story and creating visual content for social media and marketing, I’ll be CREATIVE and CREATE EVERYDAY!!  All the best parts of being a photographer wrapped into one without the daily grind of running a business.  I will grow as an artist and a photographer.

I’ve spent the last week packing my three kids for the best summer of their lives. (BTW, packing three kids for 7 weeks away from home ain’t no joke!)  Thank goodness for Excel spreadsheets and advice from experienced friends.

Follow my journey on instagram @courtneystudios and @campstarlight_official.

See you at camp!

xo,

courtney

Without Camp Starlight I Would Be

Friday, June 8th, 2018

When campers come to Camp Starlight for the first time they are surprised that this is a place where you find out so much about yourself you never knew before. Whether its discovering a passion for music or a talent in archery, campers at Starlight quickly find out how much they have been missing out on before coming to camp. Additionally, campers realize how much they would miss out on if they never spent a summer at Camp Starlight here are a few things campers would be without Camp Starlight…

  1. Bored: Every sport and activity imaginable is presented at Camp Starlight so campers are always on the move learning new things and skills. Ceramics, tubing and producing music videos just aren’t on the agenda on the couch back home.
  2. Unmotivated: Campers are constantly encouraged by coaches, counselors and staff to do their best so they can be their best. It doesn’t matter if the support is for a sport, musical performance or a chess tournament, campers are always being supported and guided to success.
  3. Unpassionate: The loads of unique activities campers get to experience often help them develop and find their passion. Exposing campers to all different kinds of sports, arts, music and games guides them to figure out what they are truly great at and then propel them to excel in their passion.
  4. Unchallenged: Not every activity at Camp Starlight is mastered in one activity period so specialists really challenge campers to conquer a skill or understand a strategy over a period of time. The challenges campers face is what helps them become better players and leaders as they take the time and effort to overcome their challenges.
  5. Uninspired: With staff from all around the world and opportunities that only come once in a lifetime, Camp Starlight inspires campers to be individuals and pursue what they love best. Campers look up to their counselors as role models, believing that they can become a professional soccer player or artist just like them if they put in the hard work. Camp Starlight helps campers believe in others so they can believe in themselves.

Lucky to be at Camp Starlight

Thursday, May 31st, 2018

Luck doesn’t only apply to the Irish because every day at Camp Starlight there is a moment that reminds you of how lucky you are to spend a summer in this magical place. Whether you are a camper, counselor or staff member, there are so many reasons that prove how lucky you are to be at Camp Starlight. An iconic reality of Camp Starlight are the endless amounts of traditions that you get to be a part of while at summer camp, these traditions are the foundations of camp and they provide everyone with the opportunity to experience all the fun and history that are in each tradition. For every traditional campfire, everyone is reminded of how magical summer camp is when songs are sung around the flames and when Olympics breaks out, everyone is so appreciative of the games, excitement and camaraderie that defines Olympics. Camp Starlight is a place where every camper and every staff member believes they have the best place in the world because they are so lucky to experience the magic of a Camp Starlight summer. Friendships bloom at camp unlike any other and every time you eat a meal with these friends, go to a sporting event or laugh during an evening activity together, you are reminded of how lucky you are to have met these people here. Camp Starlight is not just a summer camp, it’s a home for people from every corner of the world and how this place is able to bring all these unique people together is why anyone who spends a summer at Camp Starlight should feel lucky to do so.

Flexibility as a Way of Life at Summer Camp

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

At summer camp, there are an infinite amount of fun things to do and so there are a lot of things that may not always go as planned. A great lesson that Camp Starlight has taught its campers and staff is flexibility. Camp Starlight goes with the flow and always has creative solutions to any challenge. It’s important to stay flexible at summer camp because that’s what makes a summer memorable and fun. Sometimes when things don’t go as expected, that’s when the most fun occurs because of the way campers and staff treat the situation. Instead of stressing out and seeing the negative, Camp Starlight has taught campers and staff to see the positive side of the new things that can happen when something goes not as planned. Additionally, campers are just as flexible, they are eager to try a new thing and go with the flow of activities. Camp Starlight instills this idea of flexibility because it relates to life outside of summer camp as well, a valuable lesson that is applicable to school, a job, a sport’s team or at home. It’s important to stay flexible and work out solutions because that how positivity is maintained at summer camp and out in the real world, flexibility is just one of the many ways Camp Starlight helps campers to grow and become positive leaders in the world.

Why Camp Starlight is Worth the Travel Time

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

For many counselors at Camp Starlight a significant amount of distance is required to travel to get to camp. Driving literally across the country or flying seventeen hours straight from across the world, counselors are dedicated to make it to Camp Starlight. What makes those insanely long trips and flights worth it? The reason these counselors spend a long amount of time travelling is because they know that spending the summer at Camp Starlight is a once in a lifetime experience and a summer you can never replicate anywhere else. When counselors interact with the kids for the first time and see that they can change their lives for the better, all the jet lag and hours spent standing in line at the airport melts away. Nothing can compare to the rewarding feeling of helping a camper learn a new life lesson or help them overcome an obstacle, so when a counselor travels from around the world to Camp Starlight, those are the feelings they want to experience and celebrate. The counselors realize that even though they spend a lot of time travelling to get to camp, campers wait around all year long to return to Camp Starlight. When someone asks a counselor from Australia if the seventeen hour flight was worth it they usually respond with another question: was the ten month long wait to return to camp worth it? The answer to both questions lies in the amount of campers and counselors that do make that return trip–almost all of them.

Helping New Campers Make Their First Summer Special

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

I am the best at tying shoes, a master of voices for bedtime stories and I can most certainly hand out tissues for a runny nose. I am a familiar face for the same bunk all summer because I am a bunk specialist and I have the best job at Camp Starlight. As a bunk specialist for the Lower Juniors at Camp Starlight, I spend most of my time with the campers from my bunk and see them make Camp Starlight their new home for the first time as new campers. Everyday I get to watch my campers laugh, smile, try new things and enjoy their first summer at Starlight, watching them grow roots here that will have them come back for more summers to come. I love my job because I get to see their growth, the campers that nervously came to camp on the first day have grown so much since then and they have found new things that make them excited to wake up to Reveille. The most rewarding aspect of my job is when I see my campers smile because of something they were able to do because that makes me smile. My division has very young campers that are experiencing summer camp for the first time, so when they become comfortable enough at camp to master a skill or find a new passion, it is so inspiring. Everyday has its challenges in supervising these campers to be the best they can be, but the end of every day is so rewarding and worth all the hard work when they go to bed with smiles on their faces. Knowing I am part of making a camper’s first summer at Camp Starlight so special is why I know I have the best job at Camp Starlight.

Proud to Wear Camp Starlight Gear

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

When you walk through camp on any given day, you can spot a seemingly endless amount of blue stars and Camp Starlight insignia adorned on campers, counselors and staff. Throughout camp, the Camp Starlight name and logo is a prominent presence on campus because so many people are proud to wear it. When you wear Camp Starlight gear, you represent so many aspects that define what it means to be a part of the Camp Starlight family. The blue star is stamped on all staff shirts like a postcard to show that Camp Starlight is the best place to be in the whole world. This is a place people travel to, looking for that stamped blue star, so they can see all the history and tradition that lies within the five points of the star. Wearing Camp Starlight gear means to be proud of all tradition that has built such a supportive and encouraging community of campers and staff. It means to be proud of a community where there are always new and exciting opportunities taking place, a place where new passions are being discovered, new goals are being achieved and a new home is being founded. When you wear the blue and white, you wear all the smiles shared because of this place and you wear all the love the Camp Starlight family gives. The spirit of Camp Starlight is in every stitch of fabric and the sense of adventure found here is printed on every logo. To wear Camp Starlight gear means to be proud of everything that every camper, counselor and staff member has accomplished every summer. It takes a lot of hard work to build up and add to that pride, but it is so easy to slide on that Camp Starlight shirt and smile because you know you are a part of a place that has changed lives for the better, including your own.

Campers Appreciate Parents Every Day in the Summer

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

Parents of Camp Starlight campers have to work very hard all year long so their kids can enjoy a summer of fun and make memories with their friends. Even though campers are not able to see their parents when they are at summer camp, they appreciate every single thing their parents still do for them when there are some miles distancing them apart. Parents don’t see this, but campers literally light up when they see they have received mail from their parents in the morning. They clench onto the letters as they scan over every line, overjoyed to hear from their parents and the biggest smile stretches over their face. Every word from their parents means so much to them, even if they are stubborn to admit it. The days leading up to visiting day are the most anticipated for the campers too, telling their counselors all about their parents and cleaning up every corner of their bunk to impress them. They prepare in every way possible to welcome their parents into camp and wake up early the day of visiting day, eager to hug them. The moments leading up to the time campers get to see their parents show how much campers truly appreciate and love them. All they can do is stand on their tippy toes to catch a glimpse of their parents when the tape isn’t cut, and when the tape is cut, they sprint faster than they ever have before to see their parents. Campers appreciate and love everything their parents do for them, even more in the summer because that is when they realize how special their parents are to them.