For the past eight summers, I have gone to an overnight camp in the Adirondacks, over nine hours from my house. My first time leaving for Jeanne d’Arc, I thought I would be terribly homesick, but from the moment I stepped off the bus, I felt so welcome and secure that I didn’t think about home for the entire summer. My counselors would always have to make me write my letters home so my parents didn’t get worried as to why I was not writing, but in reality, I was having the time of my life and didn’t want to think of anything but camp. Before my first summer at CJDA, I was extremely insecure and had a difficult time with confidence and self-love. Camp Jeanne d’Arc’s motto has been “Faith, Endurance, Courage, and Confidence” since it opened in 1922, and I possessed none of these qualities. I was always the “shy kid” and the one who didn’t care much for speaking in front of my classes, participating in activities like school talent shows, or even reading aloud to my family. This all changed, however, when I arrived at camp.
I had never been to a place so full of such incredibly welcoming and kindhearted people. These girls were from all around the world and yet were so easily able to embrace each and every one of us. I already felt more comfortable at camp than I had in my entire life, and I had only been there for one week. As the rest of my first summer at CJDA unfolded, I found myself taking part in every activity they had to offer, performing with my cabin in our weekly talent shows, and most importantly, finding myself, which was something I had struggled with for as long as I could remember. I could not believe how much I had changed in such a short amount of time, and I began to love who I had become. This was a place where I was not only able to recognize myself, but others noticed me as well. For the first time in my life, I knew who I was. I met the most amazing people who have become lifelong friends, and with each passing day, I became more and more confident. I was so disappointed when my first summer came to a close, but I knew I had the next to look forward to.
The next several summers at Jeanne d’Arc were as wonderful as I could have ever imagined. This was my home away from home, a place I came to to escape reality and enter into a realm of pure excitement and joy. Each summer, I taught myself, with the help of my friends, counselors, and staff members, how to love myself. I became so comfortable in my own skin that I had almost forgotten how I felt about myself before I came to camp. I was able to bring back several new skills that I learned throughout the summers spent at CJDA, including self-love and confidence. Where I had once been the girl that needed to be told that I was worth it, that I was unique and had my own talents to bring to the table, I now told the rest of the world. Every time I stepped back out into reality, I had a new glow about me that was contagious. I helped many of my friends realize their self worth, a struggle I had used to share with them, but had conquered during my very first summer at Jeanne d’Arc.
My newfound ability to love myself became a skill that I would share with others, especially to those who came to camp seeking the confidence I had when I first arrived. Seven summers later and I became a counselor-in-training. I was so thrilled to become someone who campers could look up to and talk to in their times of need. I was once in their shoes, and it is no easy task trying to put on a face for others when on the inside, you feel as though you are not enough. I suddenly found myself in reversed roles with my counselors from my summers as a camper. I was now the confident, strong person to help others through their difficult times, and I loved every second of it. I thought that getting help from everyone at camp to find myself and to become the person I am today was the best thing to ever happen to me, but I was wrong. Helping the campers as well as people my own age who still struggle with self-love and appreciation for themselves is the most rewarding feeling in the world.
My summers at Jeanne d’Arc have shaped me into the person I am today, and I would undoubtedly still be the timid, insecure young girl that I had been for years without my time spent at CJDA. Not only have I improved myself and learned how to be a confident and independent young woman, but I have had the privilege to help others do the same and will continue to do so over the next few summers as a counselor. I have been able to live my life as a genuinely happy person because of the skills that I learned at Camp Jeanne d’Arc, and I am proud to say that I now have the strength, endurance, courage, and confidence to conquer any obstacles that may obstruct my path in life.
(pictured above on the right)