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From Campers to Leaders: In Their Own Words By Bri Hart, Assistant Director

In 2021, we launched our Leadership and Independent Living Skills (LILS) program for young adults, ages 18-22. Participants in the LILS program, called the “Condors,” set personal goals and develop the leadership skills, independence, and confidence needed to meet them.

We knew that while our campers receive support in many contexts in their lives, they do not often have the chance to be leaders. We wanted to create the opportunity for these young people to be recognized for their unique abilities and step into roles they may not have held before. Knowing the importance of positive self-identity, we also wanted our younger campers to have role models in whom they could see themselves.

Our 2021 Condors were absolutely stellar trailblazers for this program. One of my favorite things that they created was the advice column called “Dear Condor,” where campers could write letters asking for advice on a variety of issues, from homesickness to making friends to figuring out one’s identity and place in the world. The Condors prepared an answer to each letter, which they then read in front of the camp. Seeing the rest of the campers rapt with attention while the Condors read their “Dear Condor” letters was extremely special, and filled me with pride for these young people, many of whom I’d seen grow from campers to leaders. The Condors also collaborated to plan and execute whole-camp activities, like a Fourth of July celebration, live Pokemon Go activity, and Alsing Olympics. While leading these activities, they would earn “Condor Cash,” which they could choose to spend on take-out, extra tech time, or a special outing, such as the drive-in theater.

As a speech-language pathologist who has worked in a variety of settings, I can say that this is the ideal therapeutic environment. Developing the confidence, interpersonal skills, leadership abilities, and functional life skills like money and time management needed to reach your own personal goals while having a blast? You can’t beat that.

Three of our 2021 Condors – Ellie, Jack, and Frost – shared about their personal experience as Condors this past summer. Here is what they had to say:

Why did you join the Condors program last summer?

Ellie: After months of online college classes and quarantine, I needed a fun place to relax and be creative. Camp Alsing was the perfect place for me to enjoy myself. I swam in the lake as often as I could. I led art classes and I helped the counselors with the programming. The food was really good too!

Jack: Because I thought it would be interesting and fun to help the young campers.
Frost: I joined because Camp Alsing has been an important part of my life for several years now, and I wanted to help younger campers have as much fun as I had as a kid.

 

What was your favorite part about being a Condor?

Ellie: I enjoyed making art with my new friends. I liked the activities and I really liked swimming in the lake. The college campus was fantastic and I liked having my own room.

Jack: Having little kids look up to me.

Frost: I think it was trying things I wasn’t super confident about and realizing that yeah, I actually could do them! Also, seeing the younger campers have fun at my activities was super cool, and being able to help them with their problems made me feel like I made a difference.

 

What changes did you see in yourself after completing the Condors program?

Ellie: I learned that I can teach others about art. I learned that I have to practice patience in certain situations.
Jack: I have more experience and feel more comfortable leading little kids.

Frost: I definitely think it helped me mature; I had to apply myself and venture out of my comfort zone, which has really helped me in the long run.

What would you say to people who are considering doing the Condors program this summer (advice, encouragement, etc) ?

Ellie: I would say you need to be flexible and creative. You also have to be a leader and be willing to put yourself out there in the front of a group. You can’t be grumpy. You have to be positive at all times. I think Camp Alsing is worth it! My experience was very positive. I liked my head counselor and I liked the people I worked with.

Jack: It is a good experience, go out of your comfort zone and just do it!

Frost: Do it. Just come here and do it because it’s just so awesome and you’re gonna do great! It might seem a little daunting at first, but hey, what doesn’t?

If you know a young adult who you think would be a good fit for the LILS program, please be in touch with our director, Emily Chaleff, at emily@campalsing.com.