Camp Yachad holds a special place in my heart, mainly because I have experienced a lot of “firsts” there throughout my life. I was four years old when I began my camp adventures in Chaverim. I remember being so excited to wear my camp shirt, pack my camp backpack with everything that I would need, and put loads of sunscreen on before walking down to the end of my driveway, holding my mom’s hand, to wait for the bus. Camp Yachad provided me with my first bus ride experience, and while a bus ride by yourself at the age of four almost guarantees a tantrum, I never cried or felt nervous because of the smiling faces of my bus counselors, the spirited and decorated seats and windows, and the excited energy that never ceased to arise as we pulled up to the JCC. Everyday and every year as a camper at Camp Yachad, I experienced new firsts, made dozens of new friends, laughed and smiled uncontrollably, and made timeless memories. My summers as a camper at Camp Yachad made me realize that it wouldn’t feel like summer break unless I was at camp. That realization made me aspire to be a counselor at the camp that helped me break out of my shell as a child and have so much fun each and every day, mainly because I wanted to provide the same experience for other campers. When I turned 13, that aspiration remained, and I began my journey of new firsts as a Counselor in Training.
When I was a CIT, Camp Yachad seemed like a whole new world. I had no idea the amount of work, time, and effort it took to create the environment of camp, prepare staff members to be responsible and aware about the daily routines and safety measures for the next 8 weeks, and the logistics behind each and every day for every single camper. After attending staff trainings, meetings with my co-counselors, and answering questions and introducing myself to parents, I felt ready to begin the summer and provide my campers with an amazing camp experience. Camp Yachad gave me my first taste of true hard work and responsibility, and I was hooked. I was excited about coming to work, even though it didn’t feel like a job to me. I was passionate about working with the campers, making sure they were happy, safe, and getting to every activity on time. I was ecstatic to be a counselor at a place that felt so familiar to me, yet everyday brought something new and different to my life. Whether that meant singing new songs with my campers at Boker Tov, helping a child grow more confident with his or her swimming abilities, or even feeling within myself that I was becoming more mature, animated, and capable as a counselor and person. Camp Yachad provided me with these sentiments for the next seven years as I moved each year up the ranks, eventually to senior counselor, running my own group of campers and counselors for three of those seven years. Throughout these summers, I learned how to create and foster amazing group dynamics, be a role model for my junior counselors and CITS, and confirm my passion and ambitions for becoming an elementary education teacher as my career. Although my years as a counselor at Camp Yachad helped me grow an incredible extent, I knew I was capable to do more and give more to the place where I grew up.
I began my summers with Camp Yachad when I was four, and now, at 22 years old, I continue my summers at the same place I started with the same vision, but with a different job title. I strive to provide the campers that attend Camp Yachad with the same amount of fun, energy, and impact that I experienced as a camper myself, as a counselor with my own group each year, and now as a member of the leadership team. Currently, I work toward achieving that vision through different outlets, as I am the supervisor for the specialists this summer. This means that I must ensure that each activity is enjoyable, unique, and memorable for each camper in every unit. My vision was once targeted to a single group, watching over a few campers, but now, being on the leadership team, it has allowed me to focus on the camp as a whole, and with more responsibility, more firsts have occurred in my life. These firsts allow me to understand more about the camp and myself as a person each day. I have learned that I really enjoy working in an administrative position, helping the specialists that work for me with anything they need, as well as checking in on each camp group to see how I can make their experience that much more fun. I have more opportunity to work with all of the staff and leadership team members that I looked up to as a counselor and still do now. Most importantly, I am able to see the camp environment in its fullest capacity and interpret the best way I can have an impact on the counselors and campers.
I have a lot to thank Camp Yachad for. My biggest thank you, though, is the fact that every summer, I have grown into a better version of myself by the end of August because of what this camp has provided me with. The experiences I had when I was merely a camper in Chaverim, to a young adult during my counselor years, and now as a college graduate in a leadership position, I have been shaped and molded by this camp in ways that I did not think was possible. I am forever grateful for Camp Yachad for allowing me to continue learning, maturing, smiling, and laughing every day and for years to come and for the countless firsts I have experienced on its campsite.