In our latest Spartan Spotlight, we chat with junior Stella Cole who spent her summer helping campers at Camp Cheerio.
Q: What was your role at Camp Cheerio and what is the camp about?
A: I started going to Camp Cheerio as a camper when I was 14 years old and fell in love with the camp environment and all of the people that I was surrounded by. Camp Cheerio is a camp in the mountains of North Carolina that has sessions all summer long. It is a Christian camp run through the YMCA. The camp is for kids from ages 5-15 and is a sleep-away camp with sessions that last a week or two for regular campers. They also host a CIT (counselor in training) program which is one of the top leadership programs in North Carolina. This program is offered to 15 and 16-year-old teenagers who have aged out of regular camp sessions, but are willing to spend their summer in service to the kids and the camp that they once went to. I applied in October of last school year to try and see if I could become a CIT and had to go through a multiple-step essay submission process, but eventually I got the good news that I would be a CIT for a month for all girls camp sessions,. That meant that I would be at one of my favorite places for a month and giving back to a place that had given me so much. As a CIT, some of the main roles that you play is as a third counselor in the cabin, a student (I participated in leadership classes every day and filled out at a notebook throughout the course of the month), getting evaluated every session, helping to lead activities around camp, setting and busing tables and doing many other tasks around camp.
Q: Why did you choose to be a CIT?
A: I chose to be a CIT because of how much I had personally gained from camp and the urge I had to share that with others. I used to be very shy when I was younger, but after going to camp that all changed. The environment is very high-energy and you are introduced to a cabin of at least 13 other girls that you get to know throughout the time you are there. The amazing environment opened me up so much and allowed me to be my loud and outgoing self without a care. I made some of my best friends at camp and learned more about my faith as a Christian. Camp is one of my happiest places and I wanted to give back to that environment and be a CIT because I had always looked up to mine and seen them as a "big sister" to the cabin.
Q: What was your favorite part of camp?
A: My favorite part of camp was being able to learn so much about myself through helping others and getting super close with all of my campers. It was an exhausting experience. You barely have time for yourself because you are so focused on giving 110% of your energy to the campers at all times. The expectations are very high because it is a competition, in a sense, to become a counselor. I was one of 38 CITs and your evaluations determine your future at camp as a counselor or staff member. I learned how I react to stressful situations, how punctual I can actually be, explored my full potential of responsibility and learned about myself in more ways than I even knew were there. One of my biggest comments I received from evaluations was how connected I was able to become to campers and how I was able to stay positive and engaging for the campers in all situations, all things I didn't even know about myself. Meeting all of my campers and seeing all of their personalities showed me how I was able to be social with all of them and mesh with all types of campers. I enjoyed getting to know all of them on a personal level and teach them about God through the devotionals I did in all of my cabins.
Q: What was your most memorable experience?
A: My most memorable experience was being able to plan and lead a camp-wide Sunday church service with my whole CIT class. It allowed us to have time for ourselves as a group of friends. It was such a moving experience because we got to interact with the whole camp community and touch each and every one of them.
Q: Do you plan on returning next summer?
A: I plan on applying for a Junior Counselor position for next summer, but if I do not end up returning, I will be doing a month-long backpacking leadership trip.
Q: What did you take away from your experience that can help you here at TBS?
A: I had so many takeaways from this summer. Some of the best things I learned were how to put others before myself in everything that I do, leadership over large groups and how important it is to be presentable and held to a standard of expectation when working in business. At camp every summer I learn more and more about myself. The thing I find myself applying most at TBS is how I am now more willing to put myself into leadership positions and know my abilities in leadership as a whole.