July 21, 2016
Yesterday, I told you about Friendship Games and Man Cave: the times that we invite each cabin into our home for some quality get-to-know-you time.
Every camper does this once during a session.
We also invite our Senior Campers into our home 5 times each term for “Baskin Talks”. [Note: yes, we agree – this is not the most original name.] The Senior Camper program is our nationally recognized high-school leadership program for individuals who have finished the 9th, 10th and 11th grades.
We believe that teens are more capable than much of society assumes. 400 years ago, young people ages 15-18 would have already been parents, soldiers and workers. Let me be clear, I am DELIGHTED that none of our teens are any of these things yet, but they are not genetically less capable than their ancestors. They can embrace real challenges (like leading and doing projects) and learn meaningful lessons about life.
During Baskin Talks, we endeavor to address issues that are important to our Senior Campers. For example, we spend time talking about the “3 lies” of masculinity and femininity. For boys, the “3 lies” suggest that you are more masculine if you have 1) athletic accomplishment, 2) conquest of many women and 3) financial accumulation. For girls, you are feminine if 1) you are beautiful (using a very narrow and unrealistic definition of physical beauty), 2) you are always “nice” (but never direct) and 3) you find the right man to save you (like a princess in distress).
To help the Senior Campers think about this, they do an exercise in which the campers talk about the type of man or woman that they most admire and would most like to emulate. The individuals they describe never embrace these “lies”, but instead are people of integrity, compassion and commitment. I think it is encouraging that none of our campers want to become a Kardashian even if they do spend time watching their show.
Yesterday, we talked with the 10th graders about what counselors they liked the most. Here is my favorite answer.
“Preston Roberts was my favorite. He was no bigger than we were, but he made each of us feel special and valued.”
“Was Preston Sir really your counselor? I do not remember that”, I commented.
“Actually, he was our DOG [the 10th grader that adopted his cabin of 8 year-olds), but he felt like a counselor. “
“Wow, that is cool. Even without being a counselor, he left a huge impression on you. Of course, now YOU are the DOG to a bunch of 8 year-olds.”
“Yes. It makes me so glad to be the person I used to look up to.”
When we heard that, both Susie Ma’am and I stopped and wrote that down, agreeing that his comment was truly “blog-worthy”.
Most of the Baskin Talks focus on ways to practice and refine leadership skills. We all talk about leadership skills, but these skills are hard to practice. Think about it - how do you practice leadership without followers? At camp, we give our high schoolers a cabin of younger campers to lead. Each day, they get a chance to implement the techniques that we suggest to them. Over the past 15 years, we have seen clear evidence that graduates of the Senior Camper program become leaders in their high schools, colleges and workplaces.
We love seeing these young people grow in confidence and competence. I wish you could see what we see. I often read that “this generation” lacks work ethic or commitment, but I see so much more than that. They make me feel better about the youth of today!
PS The photo I include is some of our youngest campers loving on Dodger Ma’am. The photo has nothing to do with my blog, but I thought it was cute!