Hi my name is Nyx, I’m a current (2018) UniCorp Volunteer for Session 8 – Transitional Youth Empowerment. This will be my second season in UniCamp as a volunteer. I am also an old camper.
I was first introduced to UniCamp in the summer of 2006, and since then I have taken part in twelve separate sessions as a camper. When I was contacted about whether or not I could talk about my experience as a camper, I was stoked. I love camp, and I love talking about camp, but I realized I needed to figure out what I would talk about. How do you summarize 12 sessions or 9 summers in a short speech? Well you don’t, you can’t. Even if every week is at the same location and you have the same overall schedule, there is no replicating any one week. Sure you wake up, go to breakfast line up, eat, do your duties, rotations, repeat for lunch and dinner, then night activities and finally time to sleep. Still, everyday you learn something new. I don’t mean I learned a new academic fact or life lesson, which do come up because well, Bruins and dedicated volunteers are running this, but rather, something new about someone, and sometimes the someone is yourself.
My first session I was a quiet but curious little body. Yes, I know I’m still little, but I felt small and a somewhat afraid walking in to camp. I grew up in a strict and small household, where my parents wouldn’t really let us go out or hang out with friends. I was genuinely surprised when I found out my mom had signed me up for a whole week of camp, and didn’t know what to expect. UniCamp had advertised at my school so a few of my classmates were there, and was one of my cousins and my aunt. She and I were actually placed in the same unit. You’d think that would give me enough comfort to be louder and explore more, but we were both reserved and used to a different environment. As the week progressed, I started coming out of my shell. I sang along, laughed, made friends, and had fun. I’m not sure if it was the day we got picked up, or a few days after when the family was together, that Serendipity (my aunt), Spearmint (my cousin), and I ended up in the same car, and we were singing “Bazooka-Pooka Bubble Gum” out the window inside a parking structure. Hearing the echoes, it almost sounded like my Woodseys were there singing along. I remember comparing the sound of the river to the noise of the cars passing by in the freeway next to my apartment. Camp withdrawals are definitely a thing.
My mom loved when we came back from camp, and not just because i would want to wash dishes, but because Serendipity, Spike and I became inseparable. We couldn’t stop talking about our highlights of the week. I mean, I love talking about camp to anyone, but there’s something about it that you can’t replicate in words, so it’s that much more fun when you talk about it with people who have gone up. I remember rushing over to buy arts and crafts supplies because we wanted to make more yarn necklaces or see who could make the better tigers eye. And the autograph books. Man, reading those, never gets old. I actually have a box full of my old crash books and autographs books.
Something I find interesting is going through them chronologically and see the different words that are used to describe me. Somewhere along the way I went from being “quiet and reserved little camper,” to “outgoing and holding leadership roles.” I attribute a good bit of that progress to camp. I’ve learned to voice my opinion, to get out of my comfort zone, to not be afraid to take charge, and to not be afraid, period. You never know what your week of camp will be like, or who you will meet, but if you don’t do your best to live it, I mean really take part in the experience, you’ll kick yourself in the butt after. Time doesn’t just fly by there, it zooms by faster than you think possible, and nothing blows more than knowing you didn’t let yourself enjoy every second of it. I’m not saying you need to yolk with your kids as soon as they get out of the bus, that’s not even the goal for the end of the week, but have fun, help your campers have fun. Listen and learn from each other. Everyone there had to go through a different path to get there. One of my favorite things about camp was the diversity it brought in. I got to learn so much about other people and their struggles or concerns. It helped me want to connect more and to help more. Camp was so amazing for us that it made us come back to be volunteers because we want others to be able to experience it for themselves as well. Woodsey magic is something that I believe everyone deserves to know because in those few days, you can make life long friends. Actually, due to being asked to present today, I reached out to some of my old campmates and a recurring theme in said conversations has been:
“I know we haven’t kept in touch as well, but I’ve never forgotten you. All the jokes, songs, hugs, and feels.”
Some of you will have campers that you truly and fully connect with. That will continue to ask for advice or will just want to say hi every once in a while. Others might lose touch with them, but don’t think that means you’re any less of an amazing volunteer. It’s hard for me to focus on one week of camp when I think back, much less focus on one volunteer, because so many faces flash in and out of my thoughts when I think about how amazing UniCamp is. You will be remembered, you will teach them something.
“I am UniCamp. Because even though I have left camp, camp has never left me.”
Everyone of us holds a bit of UniCamp, of Woodsey magic in them. That is what I remember most about camp because only magic can explain the feeling that camp gives us and the change you’ll make based on the change you’ve already began creating.