When I first attended Camp Alkulana as a camper in 2008, I really didn’t know what to expect. As a rather shy and bookish child, I was delighted to have a chance to explore the outdoors with a close friend of mine. However, I had no idea about what to expect concerning my fellow campers. Through elementary school, I had always been drawn more towards people who looked like me and came from the same sort of backgrounds as I did, with a few exceptions. At camp, I was encouraged to do the opposite of what I was used to. Befriending several individuals, I found my confidence boosted, helping me enjoy this new situation. Camp Alkulana taught me that all individuals are different, but looking differently than someone does not mean you don’t have something significant in common with them.
As it turns out, learning to interact with and value people who are different than me is a skill that has served me well over the years. I first noticed this in middle school, and now recognize how it has set me up well for my college career and beyond. My first year at camp, I met a fellow camper whose name was Anthony. I didn’t interact with him in many significant ways over the course of the first two years at camp, but I was able to recognize his face and his name. On the first day of middle school, when I was searching for potential friends to eat lunch with, I recognized and sat next to him. Anthony and I are different in many ways. Yet, we instantly had a connection from our camp experience that eased the usual awkwardness of the situation. This made my transition to middle school much easier.
Over the next three years, we grew together like brothers in school, outside of school, and especially at camp. We learned from each other and pushed each other to succeed in whatever goals we had set for ourselves. After attending our last three years of camp together, we completed the CIT program and were invited to come back as junior counselors together. A year later, we served as counselors in our own cabin, which had been one of our shared dreams all the way back in sixth grade. While we did end up going to different high schools, we kept closely in-touch and now attend the same university together. Without Camp Alkulana, this long and rewarding friendship most likely would not have blossomed into what it is today. For this, among plenty of other things, I am forever grateful.
Written by Stephen Holtz
Stephen first came to Alkulana as a camper in 2008, and later transitioned into the counselor role. He is currently studying engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University.