Check out this awesome video of what’s new at Schodack for 2017!
It is no secret that camp teaches you important skills that will prepare you to face life’s many obstacles: independence, teamwork, creativity, leadership, and being true to yourself – to name a few. We all know that attending sleep away camp will make the transition to college easier. We have all read the articles outlining how a summer as a camp counselor is more valuable than a summer as a coffee-running intern. However, what not everyone readily realizes is that camp also prepares you for challenges you may never expect to face. My eleven summers at Schodack prepared me for an important experience I never saw coming my way.
In August of 2013, my sorority little sister was struck while crossing the street in Manhattan. Sadly, she succumbed to her injuries two days later. Almost immediately after her passing, the Lauren Nicole Marcus Foundation was born, to honor Lauren’s life and carry out her legacy. The main goal of the foundation is to keep Lauren’s memory alive by recognizing, and changing the lives of, outstanding young women who share the same positivity, hard-working nature, and passionate zest for life that Lauren embodied. In addition to the three annual scholarships at the schools she attended, we created L.A.U.R.E.N.’s Camp—a three-day summer camp program that teaches less-fortunate middle and high school girls the importance of many core values: Learning to Accept, Understand, and Respect Each other No matter what.
When the time came to plan L.A.U.R.E.N.’s Camp, we knew that in addition to showing these girls all of the joys of summer camp, we needed them to leave as better people. It was essential that we show them how to resolve personal conflicts and get along with one another despite their differences, at such a critical time in their lives when drama and pettiness is high. This seemed like a tricky task, considering the many reasons why the Windsor school district selected specific girls to join: Some came because they were bullied, while others came because they were the bullies. Some came because of a tough family life, and many came from families who struggle financially. How could we take this melting pot of girls and leave an impact on their lives in just three days?
I looked to my own experiences at Schodack for guidance. I spoke to members of the SCI board, former SPEC’s and members of ropes staff and head staff. I dug deep into my memories of what made the biggest impact on me as a camper and as a counselor. As is turns out, the lessons I learned at Schodack and the lessons we wanted to teach this group of young girls were not very different after all.
Lesson 1: Unity. Upon arriving to camp, we split up the girls into bunks by age. We encouraged them to come up with a bunk name, design a sign, and create a cheer. We took bunk photos. All things we did on our first day at Schodack. Drawing inspiration from my CIT years, we sat in a circle and introduced ourselves, tossing around a ball of yarn. By the end of the activity, we were all connected. We were unified as a group and had a string bracelet to prove it!
Lesson 2: Team Building. How do you show a group made up of a mix of long time friends, acquaintances, and strangers how to work together? Well, it’s the same way we learned as counselors during staff orientation, or senior campers about to head to the high ropes course. In our team-building workshop, the girls untangled themselves from the human knot, organized themselves in order of their birthdays without saying a word, and raced a hula hoop over and under without breaking the chain. With verbal instruction, they led blindfolded teammates across a field to collect puzzle pieces, and then worked together to complete the puzzle. They constructed pasta towers using only marshmallows and scotch tape. Turns out, teaching a group of counselors and a group of young girls is pretty similar! Through some important anti-bullying lessons, we were able to help the girls understand that it’s ok to be different from one another and, by the end of the weekend, guided them on how to work through these differences to accomplish a goal together.
Lesson 3: Confidence Building. Although we plan some specific confidence-building workshops, it turns out, the regular camp activities really helped our campers build the most confidence. Think about the fear you might have felt standing at the top of the trapeze before jumping, and the feeling of accomplishment you felt after catching the bar. Even if you never actually caught the bar (like me), we’ve seen that the feeling of taking that leap and conquering that fear has brought a great feeling of accomplishment and built confidence for the girls to take on to their next challenge. My all time favorite memory from L.A.U.R.E.N.’S Camp 2016 was when one girl conquered her fear of heights at the trapeze. After only a few seconds, her hands slipped off the bar and she was slowly lowered to the net. She was overwhelmed with emotions about the fear she had just conquered. In 2017, she stood tall in line about to give it another go, and even encouraged the younger girls to give it a try. This time, she caught the bar and swung back and forth until it was time to let go on her own. It was absolutely incredible to see her growth, physically and emotionally. She came back the next year more confident than ever! And my favorite memory from 2015 was listening to one girl sing for the first time in front of others at the talent show. WOW did she have a beautiful voice, yet had never been placed in the spotlight to know it! It is the every-day camp activities, like scoring a goal at soccer or catching the fly-ball at baseball, that truly develop confidence and self-esteem.
Lesson 4: Have fun!! Last and most importantly, the joys of summer camp can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of age, background, and life experiences. Playing BBG, decorating cookies, roasting s’mores around a campfire, and singing camp songs are memories I’ll never forget, and I am so glad to be sharing these joys with this wonderful group of young girls who would have never otherwise had the opportunity to attend sleepaway camp.
I don’t think I could contribute to the success of L.A.U.R.E.N.’s Camp without all that Camp Schodack has instilled in me. There are so many lessons we teach, activities we enjoy, and memories we make with these girls that, ultimately, I’ve learned from Schodack. And for that, I will forever be grateful!
We can’t wait to have “Hipster” Mike Palese back for his fourth summer at camp, third on head staff and first as an ACS! During the year, Mike conducts research for the Sonoma County Government to lower carbon emissions of county buildings and looks for the most effective alternative energy source for their government facilities. He has also been working on a research project to bring off-grid energy sources to small villages in Indonesia.
Mike can’t wait to be out in the sun all day this summer and to be returning to see all of his friends and to make new friends. This year Mike’s campers from his first summer will now be on staff with him so it will be a full-circle experience!
Fun fact: Mike is red-green color blind!
As you’re gearing up for summer camp packing, please remember our CLOTHING EXCHANGE. As in the past, the warmth and generosity of Schodack families has fueled the CLOTHING EXCHANGE – returning families offering out-grown Schodack clothing for other families to use. If you have gently-used clothing that your child has outgrown and that you’d like to donate to someone else, send me an email with the style/color/size and I’ll match it up with families looking for camp gear.
Then, simply pack the clothes in a plastic bag marked “clothing exchange” and pack it in your child’s duffel. When we unpack your camper’s duffels, we’ll take the donated clothing and distribute it as needed.
For those of you who are looking for camp clothing, send me an email with what you’re looking for (i.e. green zip-up sweatshirt, size youth small) and I’ll try to find a match. If I find a match I’ll let you know, and we’ll then make sure the clothes, cleaned and with your child’s name written inside, get to your child’s cubbies.
We’ll keep the extras washed and folded and ready for emergencies!
As many of you may remember, we offered a drop off/pick up of gently used Schodack gear at this year’s New York/New Jersey reunion, and it was a big hit! Thanks to all of you who participated!
I can not put this off any longer, June is quickly approaching and I need to face my fears! Ok, here I go…I am going to take out the camp trunks, rummage through them and figure out needs to be replaced, what I need to buy, label, rewash, fumigate and try to get another summer out of. This year I am going to start early to ward off that, “How am I going to get this done” anxiety!
Year after year packing for camp became a project that I couldn’t help but get attached to. The allotted number of each clothing item is permanently stuck in my head as the items are being compiled. I sit with piles of socks and my sharpie for what seemed like hours. I take out my sewing box and name labels for the rest of the clothes. Blue for Brittney, black for Andrew and I sew away as I sing camp songs from my time at camp… Oh yes, I sew, old school! And once that is finished, I count each item over and over to ensure it’s within the limit.
Once everything is counted, I begin to place the items into the trunks and leave them unzipped once finished for any potential last-minute additions. On the day they are delivered a feeling of relief overwhelms me as if I took the final exam of the semester.
So as June approaches this year these feelings are resurfacing, however after 15 years I surrender my reign over the camp trunks as my children are now adults and onto other endeavors. I must admit I am going to miss this process! As every part of their childhood this seems to have flown by this had too. So when you and your child are discussing which type of sunscreen he or she wants to bring to camp, just pause and take in the moment because these years will fly by!
The thing about being an international at camp, a British International at camp, is how unaware I was of what I was about to experience, the journey I had started, the obsession that had begun. Back in 2013, as an undergrad physical education student, spending my summer in America just seemed like a great way to fill in the gaps between each semester. Sure, I had heard about Camp America, s’mores, camp fires and star gazing, but nothing could’ve prepared me for the life-changing experience that Schodack has been. And yes, Camp Schodack changed my life, it’s dramatic I know, but if you know, you really do know and that’s what makes it so special. I can’t begin to summarize how I feel about 40 Krouner Road, and if you’re reading this having experienced a summer at camp, I know you’ll understand why. Amongst the green grass, perfect sunsets, gorgeous weather and plethora of sports, it is the wonderful Schodackians, both campers and staff, whose paths I have had the pleasure of crossing that have made camp the neverland I so adore. And I know you would all agree, that in one way or another, Schodack has changed your life too.
I’ve always found it amusing how camp makes the world feel so small yet so big all at once. No matter how many times I unexpectedly run into someone from camp, those huge oceans laying inconveniently between us (you and I) never feel bigger than in the cold winter months. It quickly become normal to have several different time zones on your radar, to say goodnight in the morning and to wake up inundated with messages from all corners of the world. Despite this, my ‘camp friends’ have taught me more about kindness and friendship than I could ever imagine. Friendships that survive not only the test of time but the thousands of miles often between us. It’s these friendships, built on green and white foundations of all things Camp Schodack, that allowed me to so easily fall in love with everything camp had to offer, and why, at 23 years old, I still can’t think of a better way to spend my summer than with firecrackers, roof tops and apache relays at the 12123.
As I reach my ‘blanket summer’, I feel a great sense of gratitude for having accidentally stumbled across the most fantastic place on earth. I am humbled everyday by the beautiful people I am proud to call my friends, who go about their day taking care of the Earth and treating people kindly. There isn’t a single day that I don’t think about camp and how so much of who I am today I attribute to the time I have spent at Schodack… because that’s the thing about camp, it gets ahold of your heart and never let’s go.
As I’m entering my fifth summer at Camp Schodack, it’s hard to believe that I was a camper for only four summers. On my first day of camp, I walked into a bunk of girls who had practically grown up at camp. They knew everything there was to know, whereas my only knowledge of Schodack consisted of some random broken green and white arrow framed in my living room. I had grown up hearing stories about Schodack from my dad and uncle but in 2013, I was ready to form my own memories.
On the ride up, everything was a blur. I was worried about whether or not I’d make friends, if I had all the things I needed, who I would bunk with, and most importantly, if I would make do with the endless dining hall options. As soon as I stepped off the bus, it all fell into place. My ears filled with the cheers of campers and staff who were as excited as I was to start off the second half of the summer. My concerns of finding friends disappeared as soon as the girls in my bunk bombarded me with hugs as if I had known them my entire life. My first day flew by with swim tests, lice checks, yearbook pictures, and the counselor show. By the time I crawled into my bottom bunk of G4b that night, I knew I was home.
My summers at Schodack had been filled with “firsts.” From learning stacking games to winning triple crown events, the “firsts” seemed endless. With camp drawing closer and closer, I am constantly thinking of all the “firsts” that will take place this summer. Meeting my bunk for the first time and watching all the instant friendships form. Writing Triple Crown scripts for my campers for the first time. Being able to participate in the counselor show that I so excitedly watched for my first night activity as a camper.
In my new role as a counselor this year, I’m so excited to have the chance to do whatever I can to ensure that my campers have as incredible of an experience as I did. I’ll be thinking of all the meaningful moments and role models that I had throughout my summers, and will try to pass on the amazing memories that I had to my own campers. Schodack is a magical place and I see it as my job to ensure that my campers experience the magic that I still see every day.
What’s so special about the magic of camp is how something that might seem imperfect at home, takes on a whole new meaning. The downpour that you would watch from your couch at home is turned into a chance to run through the rain, laughing with your best friends. Serving meals to the entire camp in the dark with no utensils for Medieval Night is not as crazy as it really sounds. Staying up until the morning writing scripts for triple crown is what you wish you were doing while staying up studying for midterms during the year. The list is endless.
Camp is almost 100 days away, and I know you’ll all be able to feel this magic and see exactly what I mean.
Since I was eight years old, almost every part of my life has been influenced by camp. Even as I’m writing this, my “Camp Schodack” playlist is playing softly in the background. It has over 150 songs – BPNs, alma maters, third camper’s choice tracks – and it is the culmination of the past 14 years of my life. I know that I’ll never be able to fully convey what camp means to me but I can tell you why I keep coming back.
I keep going back to camp because it is my home. Not only is it my home, but it was home to my father, my aunt, my cousins, and my sister. Schodack is where I learned to swim, ride a bike, take a five-minute shower, and stand on the Dining Hall roof in front of over 300 people and feel completely at ease. Schodack is where I learned to be a team player, a leader, and a friend.
I keep going back to camp because whether I’ve known them since 2004 or since just last year, my camp friends are the most important people in my life. The impact they have had on me in such a short amount of time is astounding. Truly, my words fail when I try and explain how grateful I am to Schodack for putting this group of people in my life. For lack of a better phrase, camp friends just “get it”. Whether that is in the form of a 3 a.m text in the dead of winter about a talent show idea or just sitting in plastic chairs at the canteen area eating gummy bears realizing that life simply cannot get any better.
I keep coming back to camp because over the past six summers that I’ve been on staff I have watched my campers grow up. This has been the most rewarding experience – one that has had a fundamental impact on my life. I have seen them conquer the climbing tower and I have seen them get into college. These young men and women who entered my life when I was 16 years old are some of the most intelligent, kind-hearted and hilarious individuals that I have ever met.
Things have changed tremendously over the past 14 years. I’ve gone from being a CIT to being in charge of the CITS, having my senior campers have their own senior campers and I’ve seen the counselors who I had when I was in junior camp with their children who are now old enough to be junior campers themselves. I guess all that’s left to say is that in 30 years I know that I’ll look back on my experience at Schodack and be able to say that I (Seminole) Let The Good Times Roll!
Want a fun way to think “camp” rather than “snow” during this long weekend? We’ve got some fun challenges that will test your Schodack knowledge!
Any camper who successfully completes our crossword puzzle and word search will get their name in a special edition of the Schodack Scoop this summer! Just click on the images below, print out the sheets and send us a picture of you with the completed puzzles! You can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them to our Facebook Page.
(FYI – This is the “Beginner” round. “Intermediate” and “Advanced” are coming soon!!!)