There is a moment that Megan Shuford describes perfectly in her blog post … the moment your parents pull away from the parking lot in front of the office and you are standing in the field watching their car drive off and you realize you are in a place where you know no one, and you have a choice, to push yourself right out of your comfort zone and approach that group of girls walking down the archery hill, or you can go back to your cabin and hide out until the next new camper arrives. This is the moment when you wish you had a friend that came along, or a sister, or even just a familiar face. This past summer I had the chance to work with an amazing group of girls who volunteered to be a part of the new program called the Go to Girls. The main goal of this program was to alleviate this feeling of uncertainty that Megan described and help make the step out of their comfort zone a little easier. Not only did this program accomplish that, but also it brought so much more.
The feeling of community at Carysbrook is like no other. Everyone knows each others name. Those who have been coming for years make new friends every year with those who have just arrived for the first time. With the Go to Girl program new campers meet a senior camper the moment that they arrive at camp, and from then on they have a familiar face for the rest of their time at Carysbrook. Not only do they have one familiar face but a whole group of new friends looking out for them and making sure that they experience the love for Carysbrook that so many of us have come to find. After their parents pull away down Camp Carysbrook Road, their Go to Girl will show them around to all the activities, introducing them to campers and counselors as they go. Not only does this allow the new camper to meet a network of new friends, it really strengthens the community at Carysbrook. It models social responsibility and acceptance by showing younger campers who may have only been coming for the past few summers that they can do the same; they can walk up to the new campers and introduce themselves and show them their favorite things about camp. It allows the older campers who have been coming for years to see what a difference they can make in a girls experience at camp with just a simple “hey want to come to arts and crafts with me?”.
In my psychology class this past semester my professor described a campaign that he started a few years back called “Actively Caring for People”. He said that it was an attempt to try and create real community where even if you don’t know the person sitting next to you in class, you would introduce yourself, or if someone had dropped their books on their way to class you would stop and help, or if someone seemed upset in the hallways of your dorm you would stop to make sure they were okay. To me, this was all common sense, I knew I should all do all these things, but I also knew that when it came to 30,000 people on the campus of Virginia Tech, not everyone knew that this is how they should strive to act. I knew this because the community at Camp Carysbrook is a perfect example of a place where the community is Actively Caring. I can not find one example of a time like the ones listed above where people at Carysbrook would not stop to help. The girls involved in the Go to Girl program exemplify an Actively Caring for People environment by setting the standard high, and making everyone feel welcome into the Carysbrook community.
Carysbrook has always been a place for people to be their true self, and feel completely comfortable in their own skin. Toni Baughman, who was the director at Carysbrook from 1980-2001 would always say that, there is a place for all girls at Carysbrook. There is nothing truer than that and she would love to see the way this is being facilitated by the Go to Girl program. The way that even if the Go to Girl has nothing in common with the new camper, she knows that if she welcomes her into the Carysbrook community the way that she herself was welcomed, there is no way that this girl would have trouble finding her place at Carysbrook. The girls who volunteered to be a part of this program piloted last year had an opportunity to experience the magic that transpires when you see a camper arrive at camp and struggle with homesickness for the first few days, and by the end of her time at camp, call home begging to stay an extra week and know that they were a part of making that happen. Erin Rose who was a Go to Girl last summer sums this up perfectly when she describes her favorite part of the program, “The first two weeks that I was there I had two girls who had come together, and I really liked seeing them first grow independent from me and having to ask places of where to go, and then also branching off and making new friends. Towards the end of the session I felt as though they didn’t need me and that they were happy with their cabin mates and it felt good to be a part of that process.” It’s the magic of Carysbrook coming full circle; developing a healthy sense of self-awareness and the impact even the smallest of actions can have on someone and the same feeling that all of the staff experience on a day-to-day basis all summer long.
The Go to Girl program strives to continue to foster the strong sense of community at Carysbrook. Carysbrook is a special place and continues to grow amazing girls into amazing women who continue to do great things everywhere they go. The Go to Girl program creates a logical leadership step before the CIT summer that helps with the transition. Soon the Go to Girls will become counselors and the counselors, strengthened by this bottom up leadership will go on to become strong women in their communities beyond camp and those new campers, maybe one day they will be Go to Girls. That’s part of what makes Carysbrook special, those powerful mentors in and outside of camp making significant contributions to the world around them, many of whom credit who they have been become to this special place in Riner, Virginia by the Little River where they were once just a little girl watching their parents pull away down Camp Carysbrook Road.