The Rookie: The Epic Quest of a First Time Camper

Experiences OF and FOR a lifetime…

Kayla Gallegos, from Chicago, IL can’t wait! She’s going on an epic quest this summer, where she will have adventures and make memories that will last a lifetime. As a first-time recipient of a John Austin Cheley Foundation Campership Award, Kayla will attend Ogichi Daa Kwe, located in International Falls, MN.

However, Kayla and her mother know that a residential summer camp experience can be both exciting and scary. But while the send-off is often the most emotional part, the opportunities that await are highly rewarding, exhilarating and often life-changing. The memories and friendships made, and the skills attained last long after the summer has passed. The personal growth and development that takes place can be the launch pad for a life’s new trajectory.

Kayla shared her feelings about camp,

Spending four weeks in an outdoor setting is very exciting (to me). I’m looking forward to all the activities and meeting new friends. I’m nervous about not adapting to the setting.

Kayla’s mother explained that,

My daughter doesn’t have much experience in nature but its something she would like to experience. Her comfort level is very high and she is really excited. She is always excited to learn new things and to explore places she has never been to.


Heading off to overnight camp is a chance for Kayla to leave behind the ordinary routine and the challenges that can be present and go on an adventure, learning cool skills, making new friends and gaining a sense of courage and independence, in an environment that is all her own. For the first time Kayla will be navigating the world of camp and making decisions away from her mom and dad, all the while being fueled with a newfound confidence. For her part all she has to do is remember that there is no right or wrong way to experience camp. Her job is to just relax, have fun and grow.

What Does Kayla Have To Look Forward To As She Prepares For This Epic Quest?

New Relationships

Not just with peers, but with trusted adults other than her parents. The campers and staff commit on the first day to be respectful of themselves, each other, and all living things. This foundation for the community will enable Kayla to form friendships that are more meaningful because she is able to be her “best self.” Just think about how useful a skill like that is: being able to negotiate on her own with an adult or peer for what she needs.

A Powerful Identity

This will make her feel confident in front of others. She may not be the best on the ropes course, the fastest swimmer, or the next teen idol when she sings, but chances are that a good camp counselor is going to help her find something to be proud of that she can do well.


Camp will help Kayla feel in control of her life, and those experiences of self-efficacy can travel home as easily as a special art project or the pinecone they carry in their backpack. Children who experience themselves as competent will be better problem-solvers in new situations long after their laundry is cleaned and the smell of the campfire forgotten.

Fair Treatment

Camps make sure that all children are treated fairly. The wonderful thing about camps is that Kayla will get to start without the baggage she carries from school. At camp she will find opportunities to just be a kid who is valued for who she is.

Physical Development

At camp Kayla will get what she needs to develop physically. Ideally, fresh air, exercise, a balance between routine and unstructured time, and all the good food her body needs. Not that s’mores don’t have a place at the campfire, but camp will also help Kayla understand a healthy lifestyle.

A Sense of Belonging

Perhaps best of all, camp will offer Kayla a chance to feel like she belongs. All those goofy chants and team songs, the sense of common purpose and attachment to the identity that camp promotes will go a long way to offering Kayla a sense of being rooted.

A Better Sense of (his/her) culture

It might be skit night, or a special camp program that reflects the values of the camp community, or maybe it’s just a chance for Kayla to understand herself a bit more as she learns about others. Camp will give Kayla both cultural roots and the chance to understand others who have cultures very different than her own.

Homesickness (yes, that’s right it is a gift)

Homesickness is a good thing. Learning to overcome homesickness is a critical developmental process in any child’s life that can only occur by going through it. Summer camp is a great place for Kayla to practice this skill because the counselors and staff are trained to coach her through the experience. Studies suggest that 97% of campers feel some form of homesickness their first time away from home with most campers discovering healthy ways to cope within 48 hours of arriving at camp.

That’s an impressive list of factors that good camping experiences provide our children.

Be Like Kayla And Invest In Camp. It’s worth it

The research is speaking loud and clear and experts agree that camp is important for the health, well-being, and development of children. Going to summer camp enables children to practice 21st century skills like grit, resilience, curiosity, gratitude, optimism, and self-control. Rumor has it is that children who attend summer camp are more likely to be successful college students too.

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