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By Camp America on 30/11/2016
Where do I start. I’m pretty certain that deciding to take part in the Camp America programme drastically changed the course of my life...
At 18, I was applying to join the Royal Air Force when one of the careers advisers told me to go and get some ‘life experience’ before I joined. I’d seen the Camp America posters around my sixth form common room and a with a little persuasion from my family I applied. I’d done some community volunteering at a disability sports club and used that experience to build my application. Wanting some control over my placement, I attended the London camp fair and was hired at a special educational needs camp within 10 minutes of walking into the event. In no time at all it was June and I was flying out to New York and my adventure had begun.
The camp runs an 8 week long inclusive social skills programme which meant we looked after the same children for the whole summer and helped them to learn the appropriate things to do whilst interacting with other people at the same time as taking part in regular camp sports and waterfront activities. The beautiful location and friendly population of the camp allowed me to fit right in as a part of the incredible community.
Working with children with autism meant there was plenty of tough days and difficult encounters but these were all remedied by our time off duty where I was able to do some crazy fun things with the friends that by the end of the summer felt more like family.
As soon as I was home I knew that I wanted to work with children long term and started volunteering in a local infant school. By Christmas I had sent off my UCAS application for university and my returner application for my second summer at camp. A few months later and I’m leaving home for camp once again, this time with the excitement of starting university in September. This summer I was a team leader of a cabin and the endless positive interactions I had with campers throughout the season really reaffirmed my desire to study special education at university.
Once home for the second time I had two weeks to prepare to move to university and start a whole new chapter of my life. I learnt so much over the year in lectures but nothing compared to the things I had learnt at camp and as soon as I had calculated that I could afford a third summer on a student budget I sent off my application and once again started counting down the days.
Arriving at camp for my third summer was odd, I felt like I had never left, not since I first arrived in 2014. Walking around seeing such familiar faces and places made me so happy and again this summer was so unimaginably incredible with hundreds of amazing experiences with the people that make up my camp family.
Summer four? You bet, I’ve still got two years of university before I go to the ‘real world’.
Jack - Camp Northwood (2014-2016)
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