My first memory of Southwoods was parents day 2004 when my family trekked up to the Adironacks to pick up my brother who was a Lower Inter Boy that summer. I remember receiving letters from him all summer long saying how much fun he was having and I couldn’t wait to see the camp and all it had to offer. We got to camp and I remember all he wanted to do was show us the archery area. My family ended up staying in the archery area for two hours because I was the one who didn’t want to leave. As we left camp that day I knew I wanted to become a Southwoods camper.
In 2005 I started as an Upper Junior Girl and I never realized how my time at camp would affect me in life. As an Upper Senior I lead my Mohawk tribe to victory and I remember that was the first time I had ever been truly responsible for something in my life. I was placed on spirit committee because everyone said, “oh, Rachel is loud.” But no one truly understands that being a chieftain is the most important thing to the Upper Seniors until they actually are one. Being a chieftain not only gave me responsibility but also independence and confidence that I never knew I had.
After being a Super Senior I realized this was my last time being at Southwoods. I walked down the bunk line on parents day sobbing because I truly thought that was going to be my last time at camp. Then Scott mentioned to my age group an idea of a Leaders in Training (LIT) program. I never thought it would actually happen until I got the greatest email that September. I decided why not sign up and be a camper one more summer! It wasn’t until I got to camp that I realized how much of a growing experience that summer would be. Southwoods always gave me a source of independence and responsibility, but it wasn’t until I became an LIT that I fully got the leadership experience I wanted.
When we arrived the campers were so excited, and the counselors were looking forward to having another helping hand. I jumped right into a Lower Inter Girl cabin with 12 girls. It was the best summer ever; I got to play like a kid again but I was still present as a big sister figure. We did a lot of leadership workshops and truly figured out what it means to be a leader. During intersession, we went to Disney and participated in the Youth Education Series (YES!) Program. I thought we were just going to goof around all day, but what I found was that we learned leadership skills and techniques that I still find myself using today.
Being an LIT was probably the most empowering experience I could have had in high school, and then coming back as a counselor has been the most rewarding experience to date. Going back to camp each summer, I see old faces all excited to see me and new faces anxiously waiting to understand who this crazy counselor in a tutu and fanny packs is.
As a counselor I truly found my inner kid. I found what it means to not only be a friend, a big sister, a pseudo-parent or a camp counselor, but what it means to be taking care of a parent’s most precious gift. I realized that being patient is all a kid needs and that a smile can go a long way.
I never imagined becoming a counselor at Southwoods, let alone becoming a Group Leader this upcoming summer. I can honestly say I owe who I am today to Scott and Andrea, my counselors, my co-counselors and my campers. I don’t know where I would be today if it wasn’t for Southwoods, but I know there is no other place I’ve wanted to spend my last 10 summers and hopefully more to come.
-Written by Rachel Golden, Southwoods Group Leader