Letter: Reader shares her experience at local summer camp

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To the editor:

My name is Jocelyn Oliva, and I would like to share my many YMCA experiences that have been created over the last 12 years of my life. These experiences have shaped who I am, and they continue to create the adult I want to become.

I started experiencing the YMCA as a toddler, participating in YMCA programs, such as daddy and me swimming, and I attended YMCA after care every day after school. Every summer since I was three years old, I have attended YMCA Camp Sloper, and I have built memories that will last a lifetime. I want to share these memories and lessons learned with you now.

My earliest memories are driving into the YMCA Camp Sloper grounds and seeing each core value displayed as the car drives by. Caring, Honesty, Respect, Responsibility, and Fun. These values are displayed every day by the camp staff and they encourage each camper to look for opportunities to live them.

For example, when I think about “caring,” I think about ‘Low Ropes’ which is really fun and it requires each person to support the camper so he or she doesn’t fall. The counselors teach each camper to care for each other by supporting one another so nobody gets hurt. It builds trust which is the foundation to making many long term friendships.

Many of my best memories and best friends have been made at YMCA Camp Sloper. I attend St. Paul High School in Bristol, so I don’t get to see my Southington friends until summer camp starts. It truly is a reunion filled with excitement of remembering past memories and knowing new ones will be created. When I was younger and afraid to be outgoing to make new friends, counselors taught me how to develop great social skills by talking to people, building my confidence and realizing it is easy to make friends once you push yourself to take the risk of getting to know people.

By making lots of friends, I am able to enjoy the value of “fun” every day at camp. Developing outgoing skills will help me greatly as I become an adult and enter the business world.

Earning “respect” is another value taught at camp. As young campers, counselors teach children how to accept the differences of each person, so that nobody feels out of place. People’s differences make camp more fun and interesting. Campers get to express their differences by participating in session themes by dressing up as superheroes, dressing in crazy styles on wacky Wednesdays, and just being themselves each day. It is great to be at a place that accepts you for you.

Last summer, I was honored with being selected “West Coast Camper of the Year.” It was a defining moment for me and one I will cherish for my whole life. To be selected Camper of the Year, one must consistently show all the values of camp through the summer.

As I bet you know, there are many campers that are worthy of this honor. For me, it symbolized everything that camp taught me and all the lessons my counselors instilled in me through the years. If it weren’t for YMCA Camp Sloper, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t be as confident as I am. I wouldn’t be as outgoing as I am, and I wouldn’t have all of the incredible memories that I have.

In sharing the last value of “responsibility,” I am proud to share that I want to give back to children and create lasting YMCA Camp Sloper memories for them. Camp provides fifteen year olds the opportunity to become a Counselor in Training (CIT) for a summer with the goal of becoming a full counselor when one turns sixteen years old. I plan to become a CIT this summer and teach children the values I have been taught, so that one day they can feel they gained confidence, friends and acceptance for who they are.

YMCA Camp Sloper has not only shaped who I am, but it has also shaped my brother into the YMCA Camp Sloper counselor he is today. Mitchell also grew up engrossed in the YMCA values and has become a caring, respectful and responsible counselor at YMCA Camp Sloper as well as at the YMCA after care program. My goal is to follow in his footsteps and pay it forward to children attending YMCA programs.

In summary, my YMCA and YMCA Camp Sloper experiences have shaped who I am and I will continue to grow into the new role of camp counselor to someday wear an orange staff. Through the years, I have become close with friends that also plan to become CIT camp counselors so a new chapter in my life is about to be created this summer. Without my YMCA Camp Sloper experiences, I wouldn’t be the confident person I am today.

The memories created in the past and the ones I am about to create will be treasured throughout my life. Drawing upon the values I have learned at YMCA Camp Sloper will enable me to remain a caring, responsible, respectful and honest person through adulthood.

Jocelyn Oliva, Southington resident

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