Posts Tagged ‘improving children’s social skills’

Limitless Love

Monday, November 27th, 2017



Whether you are a camper, staff member, parent, or alumni, Camp Starlight has an intense impact that can’t be ignored. There is a monumental significance that summer camp provides to a person’s life. An environment is fostered that allows you to become the person you’ve always dreamed of being. Friendships are established, memories are made, and life lessons are learned and carried out for many years to follow. The bottom line is, sleepaway camp provides an overall plethora of love and support for its entire community.

The camp environment facilitates a feeling of love and acceptance that is motivational and highly influential. Once an individual realizes that they are accepted for who they are, his or her potential for growth becomes unlimited. As someone who went to sleepaway camp, I have fortunately experienced this limitless love firsthand. For twelve summers, I have accumulated memories and experiences that are invaluable to me as an individual. The positivity and love that exists around camp is infectious and easily transferrable in all environments.

My summer camp career at Starlight began in June 2006. I was a ten year old girl that was extremely shy and often kept to myself. I played a few sports but I never fully embraced my athletic potential and teamwork capabilities. Despite my many fears, I bravely introduced myself to my fellow bunkmates. Within minutes, I felt accepted and loved in my new bunk of eleven girls knowing that we were going to face this new experience of camping together. Throughout the summer, I learned how to work as a team and handle conflict. My confidence and individuality blossomed as I tried new activities and experienced new adventures with my new bunk family cheering me on. My bunkmates and I overcame obstacles together, recognized each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and supported one another each and every day. While some members of my bunk shined on the soccer field and tennis courts, others lived for the chance to perform in the camp play or be featured in a dance number. Despite our preference of activities and different strengths, living together each and every day enabled our limitless love for one another as we cheered each other on and were there for a helping hand. Before I knew it, my first summer came to an end and I began counting down the days until I could return back to my summer home. Throughout the long ten months spent away from camp, I kept in constant contact with my fellow bunkmates and had several reunions. At each reunion, my bunkmates and I picked up right where we left off and continued to make lifelong memories.

Fast forward six years to 2012 when I became a staff member at Camp Starlight. Although I had been a camper for six years, the butterflies I had in my stomach putting on that staff shirt for the first time brought me back to the same nervous feeling I had when I started my camp career. However, the moment I stepped into my new bunk and met my campers, I was hit a feeling of gratification and excitement. I recognized that I had the power to be a role model for these campers as my past counselors once were to me. I took pride in helping my campers learn their lines for camp plays, rooting them on in each sport they tried, and being there for any assistance that they needed.

The year is now 2017 and I have had the privilege of being a counselor to six unique bunks of girls. Each group provided me with irreplaceable memories. My first campers back in 2012 are now in high school thinking about which colleges they should apply to and learning how to drive a car. I have had the unique opportunity to watch my campers grow as individuals and accomplish several milestones. I look forward to the day each June when my campers from past summers run off the buses, hug me hello, and tell me what their year had in store for them.


Along with the many memories made with campers throughout the past summers at Starlight, I have made new friendships with counselors from around the world. I am in constant contact with counselors from the UK, Australia, and other parts of the United States. These friendships motivated me to travel to Europe this past year where I knew I would have a warm welcome and a place to stay. It’s an indescribable feeling to know that no matter where you go in the world, there will always be someone with an open door waiting to embrace you.

Twelve years have passed since I first began sleepaway camp as an anxious ten-year old girl. Looking back, I have recognized how much my life has been changed from attending summer camp. Thanks to the nurturing and loving environment fostered at Camp Starlight, I have become a more independent and caring adult.



All photos courtesy of Madison Dratch.

How Summer Camp Cultivates A Growth Mindset

Monday, November 6th, 2017

Camp Starlight is focused on developing the whole child in a way that is healthy and fun. And although all of the running, jumping, swimming, climbing, dancing, and playing is great for their physical health, working on their emotional well-being, their character, and their self-confidence is just as necessary. This is why we put so much emphasis on having a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset.


By definition, people with a growth mindset “believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. On the other hand, people with a fixed mindset “believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.”


Campers come to camp with the labels and expectations that the world has put on them, and many have come to believe that these traits, both good and bad, are just an integral part of who they are. Some have been told they are smart their entire lives, and their fixed mindset makes them believe that their intelligence is something that comes naturally to them and doesn’t require effort to improve upon. The same goes for athletic performance, relational ability, and their character. Campers who have been told they have anger issues will begin to believe that they are incapable of handling their anger; it is a fixed part of them that can’t be changed or improved upon.


At Camp Starlight, we focus on fostering a growth mindset in each camper. When they succeed, we praise their efforts by saying things like “you worked so hard at that” instead of “you are awesome!” Although the latter can be helpful to hear, hearing specific praise acknowledging the effort that the camper put into a specific task is more rewarding and builds their self-esteem. Camp staff and counselors work hard to praise the process instead of just the person. Campers will hear us say things like:

  • Tell me more about what you did
  • How did you figure that out?
  • Are you pleased with how it came out?
  • You must be so proud of yourself


We try to avoid labeling campers or putting too much emphasis on the labels they put on themselves. We want to encourage them to see themselves as capable and worthy of improvement in all areas of their lives. We want them to strive to be the best versions of themselves instead of being complacent with the label they’ve grown so comfortable with.


As campers step out of their comfort zones and try new things, they realize that they are capable of so much more than they thought and that their qualities, strengths, and abilities are not fixed. We want campers to be intrinsically motivated; to try new thing and preserve through hard things to feel good about themselves, not because they are seeking the approval of anyone else.


A summer at camp is about growing, maturing, and improving in all areas of life. Our goal is that campers leave with new friends, new experiences, and a stronger sense of who they are and what a valuable asset they are to the world. And it all starts with how they think about themselves.


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.


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 Social Network–Summer Camp Style

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

If most Camp Starlight campers were asked to close their eyes and think about camp, their minds would be flooded with memories of times in the bunk, at campfires with their friends, winning a Wayne County game, or shaking their napkin in the dining hall. If you asked most Camp Starlight campers about their world outside of camp, most would likely at least mention their use of technology such as computers, video games, or cell phones. The fact of the matter is the era that we are living in is a revolving door of technology. Almost everything is done by computer, involves the Internet, or can be done from the tiny keyboard on your cell phone. By joining the Starlight community during the summer, campers and staff are given an opportunity to be a part of a real live social network away from computer screens and cell phones.

Summers at Starlight give campers and staff the break from all of the technology, therefore creating camp’s own social network. Instead of writing on a friend’s Facebook wall for their birthday, we cheer as they are called to raise the flag at line-up and then join them for canteen during rest hour! Conversations over text are replaced with face-to-face interaction throughout the day. And boy’s side chants and jeers as the sports’ scores are reported to a rapt audience instead of being read from a glowing computer or television screen.

By no means is technology an unfavorable benefit to today’s society. However, at Camp Starlight, we create an atmosphere all our own where campers can step back from the sometimes consuming world of technology. They engage with others around them, creating friendships and bonding through old-fashioned conversations and shared experiences. These experiences bring life to the basketball courts, at project tables in arts and crafts, while helping others learn their lines for the upcoming show at the Starlight Playhouse, and many more every day. This social network buzzing through the grounds of Camp Starlight is fun and exciting while it is also a great way our campers develop stronger social skills and interact with other campers and staff. Countless memories are created without any form of technology, and it is a nice break from the busy and often times impersonal world in which we live.

At the end of the day, campers climb into bed without worries of charging gadgets or shutting down their computers. They close their eyes and drift off to sleep with the excitement for what the next amazing day at camp will hold for them!