I always look forward to this time each year, the week before spring break. No, it’s not because spring is technically here, nor for the soon to come April showers that will bring May flowers. It isn’t even for the season’s fashions! No, I look forward to the last week in March for one reason – Camp Tecumseh!
Like many other Kesling alum, I was introduced to Camp Tecumseh in 7th grade. I wouldn’t say that I was necessarily a shy child in my youth; however, much of the time I remained quiet and tried to fit in with the rest of the kids. I was often embarrassed to speak up in class, for fear I might ask a stupid question or give the wrong answer to a question. Yes, this was me in a nutshell…until Camp T. I laugh looking back at the days before our camp trip when I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. I was a bit nervous about interacting all day with my peers at this outdoor wonder and envisioned staying at school, filling out simple worksheets, as an easier, more suitable route. I’m glad I pushed myself to follow through with going because after Camp Tecumseh, I returned to school a changed person, even though I didn’t see those changes immediately.
My teachers had informed all of us to pack our dirtiest, grungiest clothes for camp because we would be getting dirty. So what did I do? Exactly as I was told. I packed jeans and sweatshirts I would only ever wear at home and tennis shoes that probably needed to be thrown out. After arriving at camp and seeing that all of the other students packed the clothing I would see them wearing at school, I immediately regretted my clothing choices. But what I soon discovered to be one of the best things about camp is that it doesn’t matter one bit what you wear while there because clothing isn’t the focus!
Worries and insecurities soon vanish when you’re at Tecumseh because the focus is about learning foundations for success that will help you through the rest of your life. We performed activities that dealt with communication amongst your peers, problem solving, trust, self-confidence, and leadership. Activities like the climbing wall forced me to try something I was unsure about even if I only got as far as one foot off the ground (I made it about three-quarters of the way up)! Other challenges such as “mission possible” got me communicating with my fellow students and group members (in very close proximity considering we all had to block numerous holes in a five gallon bucket while two members tried to fill the entire thing with water from the river) while getting extremely wet and dirty. The best part came after dinner, when we would sit around the campfire at night, sing songs, perform skits, listen to stories, and watch our teachers become different characters in their own skits performed.
I returned from camp exhausted, but with a positive attitude and had made a deeper connection to some of my peers at school, most of whom I still talk to today. Talking with my teachers and classmates outside of a classroom environment was great! It allowed me to view them in a new perspective and as I soon learned, allowed the teachers and chaperones to view their students differently as well. I fell in love with Camp Tecumseh so much that I became a summer counselor during a couple of summers in college and for the past six years, I have volunteered to go back with Kesling Middle School as a chaperone, leading groups of students through the exercises I performed not so long ago (or at least it feels like it wasn’t so long ago…) and have watched firsthand how three days at camp can change kids for the better. Moods are lifted, communication is more present, and students are actively interacting with other students they normally wouldn’t associate with at school.
As playing is always more fun than work, sadly, this year, I was not able to go back with Kesling to camp, seeing as it conflicted with the next StyleMax fashion market in Chicago. To the 7th grade students who just returned, I hope you had an amazing three days of fun! To future Kesling 7th graders – do your homework, stay out of trouble, and make sure you qualify to be able to go to camp – you won’t want to miss it, trust me! And remember there is no such thing as a stupid question. Knowledge and experiences are power, so soak up all you can and show the world who you are!! Last but not least, to my former 7th grade teachers, I thank you for making that year in school the best out of them all and for seeing things in me I didn’t even see in myself.