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.
Tags: 21st century skills, building leaders at summer camp, camp friendships, Camp Starlight, senior year at sleepaway camp, summer camp, upper camp seniors