Perhaps I’m biased because I’ve been a camper and a Girl Scout for eleven years, or perhaps I’m biased because I now work for a summer camp associated with the organization. Whatever the case, I can truthfully say that the course of my life was overwhelmingly impacted by my experience at Girl Scout camp and the relationships and life skills I gained from it. Here’s why.

After my first summer at camp in 2009, I was unashamedly and completely hooked. I got in the car at the end of the week, and immediately started telling my mother all about my experience and already asking about the next summer. I’m quite sure that I told her more than she would ever really need to know about my five and a half days at summer camp, but the one thing I vividly remember telling her out of everything was this: “Mommy, I want to be a counselor.”

It really isn’t difficult to explain why. For those five and a half days, my counselors had effectively taken over the role of my mother. They had cared for me physically and mentally, helped me through difficult and sometimes daunting activities and made sure that I was having fun during my entire week. When we were homesick, they immediately comforted us. When we needed help, they immediately came to assist us in creating and carrying out a solution. When we were happy, they shared our joy. When we accomplished something, they celebrated with us. A memory I remember above several others from that first summer was the night it thunder stormed and a girl was up crying for most of the night. Instead of ignoring her fear and need for comfort, the counselors sat up with her for hours singing her “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music to keep her calm. Several of us sat up in bed and sang with them, and some girls gave her their stuffed animals for the night to keep her company. Our counselors’ names were Cheese and Grillz. There’s a reason I haven’t forgotten their names.

The more and more I look back on my years as a camper, the more and more I notice that while I was having fun, I was simultaneously building the three main qualities the Girl Scouts strive to implement in their members- courage, confidence, and character- within myself without even knowing it. That’s the beauty, I think, of Girl Scout camp. Keyauwee provided me with a stable, safe and supportive environment in which I could grow as an individual as well as part of a diverse group of women and girls, where I could try and fail without the fear of being ridiculed and then encouraged to try again. The best part is that, for me, it didn’t end there.

In 2018, I became a counselor at Keyauwee Program Center, and in turn, became part of a huge community committed to giving girls the best summer experience of their lives. I learned what it meant to be one of the hard-working and emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted people that strove to make girls of all backgrounds feel loved, valued, cared for and supported in all that they did and hoped to do. And what I have come to understand more than anything about this staff is that they care. They make sure that each child’s diets and tastes are catered to, that they are hydrated and sun-screened to the max and that they are having fun, trying new things and learning how to be a collaborative teammate, critical thinker, active listener, respectful speaker and a positive force in the world.

It gets even better. Not only are we given the privilege to teach and encourage these young women, we get the opportunity to learn from and be encouraged by them in turn. My campers constantly inspire me to be kind, to work hard and to face my fears. I have gotten up on the stage and done the most ridiculous things as part of staff talent shows and (somewhat) conquered my intense fear of heights because my campers have encouraged me to. Counseling is an equal exchange- you get from your girls what you give to them. I am lucky to be able to give and receive so much in this job.

I suppose that my point is this: Without camp, I would not have been a counselor. Without camp, I would not have my best friends or have had the confidence to major in is Creative Writing with a minor in Psychology. So please, please, with all of my heart, and a cherry on top: Send your daughter to Girl Scout camp. I promise you won’t regret it.

Rachel is a long time Girl Scout and current staff member at her home camp, Keyauwee Program Center. She is currently studying at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and is working to earn her degree in Creative Writing with a minor in Psychology. Her passion in life is people, specifically children, and helping them grow into powerful and confident individuals. Her perfect day at camp would include a pajama breakfast, extra pool time, kayaking, climbing the Tower, and her favorite camp meal: chicken tenders and tetris tots.