by: Kendall Van Nort

kendall picThe night before my father dropped me off in Mallets Bay for my first Brown Ledge summer in 2005, I hysterically cried. At ten years old, I howled at the thought of leaving my Southern California home and its comforts for four whole weeks. I was convinced no one at this tiny all girls camp in Vermont would want to be my friend, and I would be resigned to four brooding weeks hiding in my twin bed in a log cabin. Needless to say, I was a dramatic child. The next day, however, began the start of my six summer commitment to one of the most unique places for a girl to grow up in. That first summer was different. I learned to adjust to life without constant parental guidance, and in doing so started to develop my sense of independence I carry so close to me today, as I sit here reflecting on that first summer while on my semester abroad in Sydney, Australia. Brown Ledge not only brought me some of my closest friends, but also some of my fondest memories.

When I think back on my early teen years, most of my defining moments happened at Brown Ledge. I think about my first time trapezing on a sailboat, wind in my hair feeling exhilarated, scared and happy. I think about shouting the rap song in the dining hall at the top of my lungs, laughing at the absurdity of my tone deaf voice warbling above the others. I think about falling on water skis, and having my best friend Kelly Quinn convince me to try to stand back up again. I think about becoming best friends with Fish, the nurse, after she had to take me to a local orthodontist 6 times one summer because I kept breaking my brace’s brackets (Note to younger self: caramel and braces don’t mix). Kim: cover your ears for this one—I think about sneaking out of Ship Ahoy my last camper year, on our last night of camp, and lying in the grass with my six bunkies, watching the stars and thinking that life couldn’t get much better. I think about the new comfortable home feeling I learned standing in the grove singing with a hundred plus other girls who went from being strangers to my Brown Ledge community.

The thought of us west-coasters leaving sunny California for buggy Vermont is intimidating. This higher risk, however, has brought me much higher reward. I grew up having best friends who lived in Connecticut and Boston and even Spain. As I’ve gotten older, this web has only grown. At my university abroad, I’m friends with two girls who were roommates at their home university with one of my best camp friends. My Brown Ledge experience not only taught me independence, but also taught me the power of the friendships that BLC produces, and the coupling of these is something I will carry with me always.

Maturing in two distinct locations, Los Angeles and Mallets Bay, has been an invaluable experience for me, and I encourage any young girls considering the same to make the journey across country. You won’t regret it, and if anything, you’ll be reasonably close to the Ben and Jerry’s factory.