Happy Campers

Ever since I can remember, I have always looked at the world as if there were two kinds of people: those who go to summer camp, and everyone else.

I assume that if you have ever gone to summer camp, you feel the same way. Whether you spend six weeks at camp on the East Coast, or just one week at a small camp near home, there is a universal sense of belonging that every camper experiences.

You spend the entire year counting down the days until you get to go back to camp, a place where you will meet up with old friends and make new ones. If you're lucky, maybe you'll come home a little more enthusiastic about life.

Well, my camp is not one located on the East Coast, nor on a beach down south, but in Sonora.

And I'm no longer a camper. This was my first year as a Junior Counselor, or JC, at Foothill Horizons. The past two years I attended camp as a CIT, or Counselor In Training.

Just like most of my fellow "Foothillers," I was ecstatic about going to camp. Due to a few family vacations, I was unfortunately able to attend for only one week, so I was determined I would make the week my best ever.

However, this year, I would be in a cabin with 12 very active 10-year olds. It sounds a little more intense than it actually was. I did have two fellow JCs in the cabin with me, along with a counselor/staff member.

The theme for the week was fairy tales, so the session attracted tons of enthusiastic young girls, and only a few boys. Hence, the class I had to teach on Tuesday: A workshop of sorts on giving each other facials and painting each other's nails.

Unfortunately, when the facial creme would not come off their faces, I had a few very discouraged young girls. Eventually, after a while of scrubbing, they were facial free. My first real task as a JC — keeping a group of campers occupied for an hour — was successful.

Throughout the course of the week, just like my fellow JCs and CITs, I was constantly working hard to entertain the younger campers. Whether it involved playing a quick game of "Mafia" (a camp card game), making friendship bracelets, or throwing together a random game off the top of our heads, we always seemed to find a way to keep the extremely active and curious campers occupied.

After getting to know the girls in my cabin a little more, I soon realized that these extremely active and curious 10-year olds were very smart. It surprised me when I overheard them discussing politics. I had to continuously remind myself that they were really were only 10 years old.

At Foothill Horizons, two nights out of the week are dedicated to the session's theme. Since the theme of the week was fairy tales, on one particular night we had the campers going to stations with different fairy tale characters and finding clues about freeing the princess that was captured the previous night.

Given that it was pitch black outside and we had only one flashlight, trying to reassure my group of kids that I knew where I was going was quite difficult. Eventually, after calming down the frightened young girls, we found our way, and all was well. The princess was freed.

Well, eight friendship bracelets, two campfires, and a trip to the lake later, my week at camp was sadly coming to an end.

When I was a camper, I can remember how much of an effect that the JCs had on my week at camp, and how cool I thought it was that they actually wanted to be our friends. After my first week as a JC, I realized that the tables had turned, and now I was one of those "older kids" who made an impact on the campers' week.

I also realized that while the activities we do at camp are indeed special, it is the people with whom you do them that makes that one week so memorable. It was now time to return home.

To comment, click on the link with this story at Sasha Riddle is a junior at Beyer High School and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom program.