Monday, September 23, 2013

My Summer Working at a Boy Scout Camp

by Cari A., Panther Blogger
This summer was one I will never be able to forget.  I met more amazing people than I expected to meet during my time at Boy Scout Camp. That's right - I worked at Boy Scout Camp this summer!  I know most of you are thinking:  a girl? at Boy Scout Camp?  That is exactly the response I got from everyone when I told them my plans for the summer. I even thought the same thing at times leading up to my departure.  This was my first time getting a job all by myself without using family ties or connections to get my foot in the door.  I got one of those dreaded campus emails about locals needing job help for the summer, and Camp Ottari was on that list of places. I was drawn in with the hopes of being able to use my ropes experience from Ferrum Outdoors to work at their 850-foot zip line!

Upon applying, however, the zip line wasn't where I was needed this summer. Having experience as an EMT, the Camp Director thought I would be a great addition to the Waterfront staff.  I cannot say I was excited about that, but I was soon very glad that is where I ended up.  When I was told I would be working at the Waterfront, I figured I would just be a lifeguard and watch kids swim all day long. Relaxing in the sun, tanning and hammocking in my spare time.  Boy was I wrong!  I soon found out that the Waterfront staff had one of the longest days of all the other Camp Program areas.  Most work days lasted from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. with meal breaks.  I wasn't just a lifeguard, I thought.  I was indeed a swimming instructor:  in Boy Scouts, the scouts go to camp to earn their Merit Badges and swimming is a really important one for them to achieve.  I definitely wasn't excited about having to teach 3 classes with 20 scouts each everyday for two months of my summer.  Though there were times I wanted to pull my hair out and throw the occasional troublemaker in the lake, I soon became quite fond of my job.

Camp Ottari is in the beautiful mountains near Radford, VA, where the beauty is like no other and cell service is nonexistent!  Although I still don't full understand why or who decided to put a camp in the middle of a mountain, it definitely made the experience unlike anything I've ever done.

I know some of you are still thinking:  why would you go to a Boy Scout camp where you are barely being paid, you work all day, have to walk up and down the mountain a million times a day, have to wear a Boy Scout uniform everyday, have to see hundreds of scouts day in and day out for 8 weeks, and be happy about it??  I am not sure why I decided to do it because it was definitely out of my comfort zone to go away from home and not know anyone. I had walked into a world where most of the staff were guys who had been in Boy Scouts their whole lives and already had their own group of friends.  Being one of only 8 girls on staff with 40-50 guys on staff, I was in for an adventure.  I almost had to prove to them that I wasn't just there to be surrounded by guys all summer and to get their attention because those were definitely not my intentions at all.  I had to show the guys that I was serious about the job I was given. I believe that I truly made them aware of that within the first week or so.

Being in a group where there are only a handful of girls among so many guys can be weird, but I was part of the family in no time and I met some of my best friends that I will have the rest of my life.  I worked with some of the most dedicated and caring people I could have asked for.  They all had a special place in their hearts for children, and an even bigger place in their hearts for Scout-making.

There are so many things to share about the summer, but I wouldn't be able to put them all into words that would make much sense to someone who wasn't there - many inside jokes, crazy times, and so many times that we made everyone cry and come together.

We all came from different walks of life and had different skills and beliefs, but one of the times where all of that disappeared and we all meshed together was during our campfires.  Every Sunday when we would get new campers, we would have to put on a crazy show to get them so excited to be at Camp Ottari.  No matter how many times we did the skits, we had to be doing them with as much energy as we did the first week of camp.  That was a hard task for some, but for me, I was always really excited for a fresh group of scouts!  On every Friday evening, we would have a similar campfire to close out a great week. These campfires either made or broke the week. It was the tone-setter for the week for sure.  Another special time was when we competed against neighboring camps in what we called the "Reservation Olympics."  Camp Ottari hadn't won this tradition in a long time, but we came together as a team and family, and in the end, we CLAIMED THE VICTORY!!  That was a moment most of us will never forget!

This experience was one of those that make you think.  I learned a lot about myself this summer and couldn't have imagined a better place to spend a summer. I would recommend it to anyone who is willing to go outside their comfort zone and spend 2 months working to make some young scouts' summer dreams come true!

Here's to a great semester back at Ferrum!

- Cari

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