Monthly Archives:July 2011

How One Summer at Woodland Can Change a Life Forever

Posted by on July 26, 2011

Over 25 years ago, a guidance counselor I had in college asked me what I was going to do that summer in order to be a better teacher upon graduation. Since I didn’t have a good answer to his question (I said that I was going to work at a fast food restaurant), I asked Dr. Galloway what he had in mind, and he told me that I should consider working as a counselor at a summer camp. I took some time thinking about the idea (I was never a camper myself and really had no concept of the camp experience), and came back to his office two weeks later saying that I would do it. Dr. Galloway asked me what my favorite state was, and I chose Wisconsin since I have relatives living in Stevens Point. I proceeded to type letters (this was obviously before the days of email!) to ten camps inquiring about positions available for the upcoming summer. Anne Jordan was kind enough to call shortly after receiving my letter, and following several phone conversations with her, I signed on the dotted line to pack my bags and head north for the summer.

I did not really have any expectations for what I was about to experience that first summer, nor did I have any idea that I was about to embark on a journey that would change my life forever. Because I naively thought that in order to be a better teacher, I would need to find a camp program that offered tutoring, I spent my day tutoring the campers from Mexico who wanted to learn English and a handful of others who needed to work on reading or math in order to be on track at school in the fall. I had no idea that teaching archery or swimming was just as valuable an experience for obtaining skills that would be useful in the classroom setting down the road.

I was a typical first year counselor and learned a great deal from the many mistakes I made in addition to the coaching that Mrs. Jordan so graciously took the time to give me so that I could handle the challenges of living with ten 13-14 year old girls for seven and a half weeks. In many ways, I was more homesick than most of the campers, and I couldn’t wait to go home and put the experience behind me. It wasn’t until the very last week that I totally “got it” and realized the value of spending a summer away from home in the camp environment. I observed girls learn to live and work as a group, show respect to others, gain confidence as they progressed with skill development in their activities, try new things, be independent, make choices and take risks in an environment where it is safe to do so, overcome challenges and fears, navigate the complexities of social relationships, seek guidance from those both older and younger, and appreciate the many gifts of nature,…, just to name a few!

I was so overwhelmed by the power of the camp experience that I was the first staff member to sign a contract for the following summer! I also got my lifeguard and WSI certification to satisfy my PE requirements at school that year, and the next thing I knew was that I was asked to be the co-director of the waterfront my second summer. I guess the rest is history as I ended up spending twelve consecutive camp seasons at Woodland and was sure to explain to various school principals the importance of me leaving for camp the day after school officially ended (even if it meant missing the ever important end-of-the-year meetings). I eventually moved to Chicago to work on my Master’s Degree so that I could be near camp’s “winter office” and only 6 hours from my summer home on County D Road. It is often met with surprise when I tell people that I was never a camper at Woodland, but rather, over the years I progressed from counselor, to program director, and eventually assistant director.

Fast forward to the summer of 2011, I found myself once again in the Northwoods of Wisconsin following a fourteen-year hiatus. This time I chose to return to Woodland to lend a hand and give back to a place that gave so much to me in my formative years as an educator. After finally having the opportunity to have a classroom of my own, I found that I was always trying to make school more like camp and NEVER trying to make camp more like school. As it turns out, spending that first summer at Woodland over 25 years ago did change the course of my life, and I am fortunate now to be able to work professionally as a consultant to summer camps around the country. I especially enjoy working with camp staff for orientation or mid-summer training and developing innovative camp program ideas.

In many ways, returning to Woodland after so many years was like coming “home”; while so much was just as I remembered it, there were many new faces and names to learn of campers and staff who had been there for just about as many years as I had been away. I was amazed at the number of current campers who through the process of fitting the pieces of a puzzle together discovered that I was counselor to their mother, aunt, or sister, or that I knew a cousin, uncle, or brother from Towering Pines. I was very touched by the warm welcome I received from the newest generation of the Camp Woodland family.

If you have a daughter who is spending her first summer or her tenth summer at Camp Woodland, I am happy to report that while so many things in our complex world have changed over the course of the last two decades (including the hairstyle I had when the camp video was made!), the mission of camp has changed only in ways that make it even better for the development of the young women who grow up there. Thank you for giving this wonderful gift to your camper – who knows, it may be a life-changing event for her as well!

Kim (Wenzl) Aycock
Camp Woodland Staff (1986-1997, 2011)

Isa’s Idea of Camp

Posted by on July 25, 2011

My name is Isa Suarez, I am from Mexico City and this is my 6th summer coming to camp. This summer is my first year being a CIT and my cabin is treetops. Friends and family at home are always surprised when they ask how many summers I have been coming to camp, and the answer is 6. They find it even more surprising when I tell them camp lasts for 6 weeks; many questions come up, such as how can you do it? Don’t you get tired of doing the same thing over and over again every summer? Don’t you want to do anything else?

Camp is a whole new place full of different people and different things to do; you meet new friends from different countries and from different surroundings than you. Camp is a place where you can be who you really are and no matter what you can always count that you are never going to be judged by anyone.
I remember the first time I came here; I came to Woodland because my dad spent a couple of summers at Towering Pines when he was younger. My older sister and I couldn’t have been more exited. After a 4 hour plane ride and an 8-hour bus ride I was finally here. I will never forget the first time I saw the Woodland sign, decorated with some welcoming blue and yellow balloons. From the moment I stepped out of the bus, I knew I was home, and I knew that I would be stepping out of that bus for the next couple of summers.

To this day I can’t help but smile every time that I see the Woodland sign, for me, it represents all the memories, friends, stories, laughs, and songs Woodland has given me these past 6 years. I don’t think that you can explain what Woodland is all about to a person that has never been here, because it is impossible to explain the feelings of joy, happiness, excitement, teamwork and friendship. Woodland has taught me a lot of things and everyday I learn something new. I try to make everyday here count and I try to make everyday a new experience.
I can’t thank my parents enough for sending me here and to the Jordan family for making Woodland such a good place and experience.
So back to the questions written at the beginning… I am asking those questions to myself right now, and I realized that I still have the same answers that I been having the past 6 years. I do not get tired of it, and I do not want to do anything else.

Make an Impression in 2011 – a CIT’s perspective

Posted by on July 19, 2011

Greetings from the Northwoods!
It is hard to believe that I am halfway though my ninth summer already…it is amazing how camp flies by. I remember being an eight-year-old camper and saying goodbye to my Dad when he dropped me off that first summer. So much has changed from when I was that young. I was always the girl looking up to the CIT’s (counselor-in-training) and wanting to be a cool as they were. Now that I am a second year CIT, I know how it feels to have girls look up to me. I realize the importance of being a good role model; the campers are impressionable and pay attention to everything we say and do.

Being a CIT is so much fun! I go through my everyday actives in addition to being officer of the day and counselor for the day. It is neat to see the activities I took when I was younger compared to now. I get to assist an activity that I think I will want to teach when I am a counselor, which is really nice because I get a feel for what it will be like running my own class. Being officer of the day is also really fun, too. I help out in the office, sort the mail, do cabin inspection, and assist the girls learning how to ski. Another great thing about being a CIT is getting to be in the Coed-Show! That is one of my favorite things about camp. I love putting on a show for the campers because I loved watching the show when I was younger.

At camp everyday is different. Even though we are doing the same activities, something new and exciting happens everyday. Camp has made such an impression on my life. I cannot imagine a summer not coming back to camp. The friends I have made here have been the best friends I have ever had. The girls are all my sisters, and it is so hard saying good-bye to them year after year. Camp is like a second home to me, and it is truly a place where I can be myself and make friends that will last forever.

2nd year CIT

Impressions in 2011 – an alum’s perspective

Posted by on July 19, 2011

Dear Woodland Staff,

By the time you read this, you will have experienced “Red, White & Boom” in all its glory. “Ooooh, Aaaaah, Wonderful!!!!” will still be resonating through your heads as you remember the beautiful fireworks lighting up the north woods sky over Clear Lake. Budding relationships will have already begun between T.P. boys and Woodland girls assuring that many envelopes will cross those County D miles via any soul willing to make a delivery. (at least this is how they did it in the old days) And by now even the new counselors and campers will know the Woodland Song as well as having other camp favorites committed to memory.

Although most of you have never met me, we are connected just the same because we are all Woodland girls. Some of us from many years ago, and others even longer. And then there are those who have just recently become a part of Woodland life. Nevertheless, the bond is there because of this great place, Camp Woodland, gifted to us by Mr. and Mrs. Jordan and the Jordan family.

You may not realize the importance of your role here at Woodland, and so I want to take this opportunity to remind you because your time here is short and each day is a gift. What you bring as an individual to camp is a gift as well, and it does not go unnoticed. The campers you are here with in the Summer of 2011 may not tell you what they learned from you or how much you impacted their lives. However, someday many years down the road, you will know that you left an imprint on a Woodland girl’s heart, and that will be passed on to all those lives whom she touches. I am still in awe at the campers who have found me 20 years later and remember something that I said or did that touched them in a significant way. So, be mindful of your words and actions because they are far reaching and are powerful beyond belief.

Part of the magic of Camp Woodland is that not only are the kids learning from you, but you are learning from them. Open your mind to the wisdom of what they have to offer by simply listening to what they have to say and observing. It is sometimes at the oddest and most inconvenient times that a camper will come to you; however, this is future training for parenthood!!! It never fails that when I am utterly exhausted and tucking my 13-year-old son into bed, he begins telling me something about his day or something that happened. If I didn’t take the time to listen to him even though I’m ready to just say “Good Night,” I would truly miss out on a gift that he is sharing with me. It is at these times that campers are trying to make a connection with you. It’s as though they are handing you a piece to a puzzle that is a very personal way of letting you into their complex life.

There is also great wisdom in the years of experience of your fearless leaders. They really do know what they are doing, so don’t forget to absorb as much of it as you can. I have used what I learned at Camp Woodland in every aspect of my life for the past 22 years. I hear Mrs. J.’s voice every time I say to myself, “When in doubt, STOP, and START over.” Simple, right? So why is it so effective? This is your opportunity to take what you will from their experience and knowledge and use it to better yourself and be the best person you can be for these campers.

Finally, because I cannot be there and wish I could, please do me a favor. Savor these moments. Listen to the wind blowing through the pine trees. Stop and close your eyes and smell the air and listen to the waves on Sand Lake. Look out across the water and enjoy the view (forget about the brown residue and leeches for a moment if you will). Savor a frozen candy bar at canteen. Watch a smile creep across a girl’s face as she does something she thought impossible. Relish in the joy of a camper’s excitement when she hears her name called because she received a package. Sing at campfire just a little more loudly than you did the time before. Feel the spirit of peace at vespers that doesn’t care what religion or faith you are, but is just glad you exist. Smile at a camper you pass who just needs an extra look for reassurance. Tell another counselor something they do amazingly well. And look just a while longer at your wish boat floating out across the water because that candle is truly a beacon reflecting a summer that will be a memory you will want to savor for years to come.

Much love to Mrs. J., JoAnne, Susan, my sister and any other Woodland/T.P. friends,

Camp Woodland Staff
(summers 1990-1994, 1997)