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A Reflection from Upper Alps

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Written by Brown Ledge Team on November 29, 2015

Second only to “does this freedom of choice philosophy really work?”, we hear the question: “why do you have male staff at an all girls camp?” We recently received the essay below from one of our current male counselors. After reading it, we thought “that’s why we have male staff!”. We hope you agree.

by Mark Gawronski

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I love camp. I cannot imagine how strange it would be to work at a different one and I can’t fathom how lucky I am to have been found by Bill. Plucked from the endless list of Europeans who petition to work in the US of A each summer.

When I was applying and I ticked the box saying I’d be willing to work at an all girls camp I thought nothing of it. ‘Well, they won’t want me. Its an all girls camp and I’m quite possibly the manliest man there is.’ I just knew that I’d rather tick that box than possibly find myself at a weight-loss or religious camp. I bet they don’t have Oreo Mush in those places.

So here I am. Three great summers in the kitchen, eating as much pizza as I want and making youthful dreams come true with the previously mentioned, terrifyingly delicious dessert – Oreo Mush. Who could ask for more?!

I knew early on that I would like to return to this place on Mallets Bay. A feeling I am sure many of you reading this have experienced. I resolved to work hard to impress B and K, so that they might be persuaded to invite me again. I don’t know how impressed they were but I made it back. I also made no secret of my desire to be involved in Archery over the years and finally this summer I was given a shot at being on activity staff. I’m grateful for so many things at camp, but their trust in me is one of the big ones.

It sounds silly to say, especially to people who have never been to Brown Ledge, but I can see myself coming back for as many years as I’m able to contribute. Obviously a lot of people can say that, and life always finds a way to interfere, but right now, there’s nowhere I’d rather be. And there are some great examples of how to achieve this on senior staff. For the first time, I can see why becoming a teacher might not be all that bad.

But I’d like to get a bit serious now, briefly. I’m not sure how harmful this thing is but I’ve had it for about three years now. I think I have some sort of weird brain deal. It’s true. It’s undiagnosed so far but it’s real, I swear.

Maybe some of you out there have it too: I find myself in all sorts of situations where the first thing I think of is how something might apply to camp.

For example, I’ve been travelling a lot the past couple of years and I meet a lot of people. And they’ll tell me all the interesting and amazing things they’ve done and craziness they’ve seen. Great, I think. Then they’ll casually mention how they are a good kayaker, or lifeguard. Instantly I’ll ask if they’ve ever worked with children before. Have you ever thought about camp? Yeah, Camp America!. In Vermont. We have a lake!

In my mind I’m actively and constantly recruiting for camp. How good are you at windsurfing? Do you know what an Ugly Doll is? Accountancy doesn’t really work, but what do you know about stagecraft? They’re all baffled at first.

Similarly, I’ll hear a good song and wonder how Kylie and her magnificent choir might turn it into a performance that I’ll always remember as something special. It has happened to a number of my favourite songs and it’s always a blast. Its crazy and it never stops.

Got a cool party trick? Well I hope it’s good because I’ve seen Clarion fire an arrow into the gold with her feet, the Bensche sisters are insane dancers/gymnasts and Ledger is packed with immensely talented singers. I’m just saying, Bring your A-Game.

One last thing. I know other people have spoken on this subject, with much more authority and eloquence, but I really must say how much I admire what it is we do here and the people who achieve what it seems H.E.B. wanted for his camp. Which is of course to nurture strong women. Whether that means giving them Basics, Intermediates, Vanguards and Supercamper awards to work toward or letting them chill on the dock and work on friendships that will last a lifetime. These girls really do benefit from eight weeks on Lake Champlain. They grow and become amazing people before your eyes. Anyone who has been on staff can tell you this.

What’s exciting is the prospect of new Brown Ledgers coming through, year after year. This is a phenomenon that will continue without us. New staff and new campers. Jenny Aguiar, Lucy Hauck, Ellie Zimmerman, it is amazing to watch these Brown Ledge girls shine and progress. Though in forty years these names won’t mean anything to the campers that summer, to the girls making too much noise in Funny Farm, there will be new names scribbled on the ceiling, and different stars on the board. It’ll just keep going. Or maybe these names will be remembered, passed down mother to daughter, stories of friends past but sorely missed. Or bunkies who have managed to stay in your life all these years, who will see you at Christmas, or maybe at Alumnae Camp next year.

Eight weeks is never enough, the last day of camp is as much evidence of that as anybody needs. This was only my fourth summer at Brown Ledge and I feel like a stronger woman already.

Posted Under: Alumnae, Current campers, New Campers, Staff

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