Our alumni stories and connectivity to camp are critical to preserving our history, our collective memories and inspiring our current campers. We are excited to share our story of Camp Hayward alumni Gwen and her camp experience.
I grew in in the city, Montreal specifically, and had been to day camps throughout my childhood but never to a sleep away camp. It was my best friend who encouraged me to join her as a C.I.T. I was apprehensive as I didn’t know anything about Hayward & Burgess and had never been to Cape Cod!
This was the beginning of a five-year love affair with camp, I went from C.I.T. to JC, to counsellor, and spent my last summer as Director of Outdoor Pursuits. I ended up loving camp so much that I worked three outdoor education seasons, essentially living, and working at camp eight months out the year! I was a shy and reserved person when I first went to camp, and the singing and dancing were outside of my comfort zone. The wonderful thing about camp are the people; the staff and the campers made me feel like I was part of a community – we could all be silly together.
Being trusted to be responsible for a group of kids, leading them through the day and supporting them when they were homesick or dealing with conflicts, was a huge confidence builder for me. Not only was I caretaker, friend, and role model for these kids – I was developing my creativity and my leadership skills in a safe and supportive environment. Working at camp pushed me to challenge my own limits and do things I never dreamed I would; overseeing the High-Ropes course, leading team-building activities for groups from Harvard and MIT when I was only 19, teaching forest and lake ecology classes to students from all over Massachusetts.
These experiences were beyond formative, they made me the person I am today, and though I did not know at it the time, this experience would serve me well in my career as a museum educator and college professor. Beyond the character building, I also made friends from all over the world, many of whom I am still in touch with. I truly cannot put into words how special camp has been in my life.