I am a strong believer that every scout should go to summer camp at least once. My first week at Owasippe was a life-changing experience, and after that summer I felt like I got what scouting is all about: The camaraderie. The spirit. Being able to goof off without your parents or teachers there to give you the look.
Even if you can’t put your finger on it, anyone who’s been to Owasippe before knows how their time at camp has impacted who they are today. However, I recently read an article that made me question the future of camps like Owasippe. The article claimed that many parents are opting out of sending their kids to summer camp, and instead, are enrolling their kids in academic programs or internships, in order to beef up their child’s college resume.
First, I’d like to add that I don’t think it should be the parents’ choice whether or not we want to go to camp, but that’s not what the author was arguing. He pointed out that for many scouts, summer camp is the first time in our lives that we are living away from our parents, and that if a parent is concerned about a college resume, they should remember one thing: They can’t follow their son to college. That is a path the child must take alone, and if you can master independence at camp, you’ll be more prepared than anyone else when the time comes to leave home.
And independence means more than just battling homesickness, at camp you are the master and commander of your own decisions. Like: how are you going to spend your time during shoes off period? How are you going to spend your money at the trading post? … How often will you shower? with nobody (outside of the troop) to tell you what to do, you are truly the master of your own destiny. You decide who you are going to be.
This brings me to my second point on the impacts of summer camp: At camp, you can be a different kind of person than you are at school. Outside of holding yourself to the Scout Oath and Law, you don’t have any reputation to keep. If at school you are the smartest kid in your class, you can act as moronic as you want at camp. If at school you’re shy, you can hold your head high at camp. Nobody cares! And –even if your school doesn’t let you get up on the cafeteria tables and sing Ole MacDonald at the top of your lungs— you can carry that part of yourself back to school with you.
I’ll even go and say that the experiencences you have at camp are a type of character building. (Now, typically character building refers to when you have to do a chore or task that is so unpleasant that you become a better person from the experience), but at camp it’s different. You become a better person because the ceiling of what you can do and be is lifted.
When I first came to Owasippe as a fifth grader, I left as a stronger, prouder scout not because I had to overcome any obstacles, but because I just had a rollicking good time. At camp, I felt like I could be myself. No matter how goofy, grimy, or smelly that was. By being offered seemingly boundless freedom, I could decide who I was going to be, and left as a better person because of it.
The other reason I believe time at camp is more valuable to a scout than a summer school program is because, simply put, summer camp is what scouting is all about. things like archery, canoeing, riflery, pioneering, wilderness survival,… underwater basketry. This is the meat and potatoes of scouting, and missing out on camp means missing out on some integral parts of the Boy Scout experience. That’s why I encourage every scout to go to camp. Even if you have every merit badge and “don’t see the point” in coming back, you can continue to learn and grow, (and have just as much fun too), by applying to be a CIT or staff. Instead of just one week at camp, you get paid to stay for the whole summer. Imagine that.
So now that you have no excuse not to be there I’m looking forward to seeing all of you at camp this summer! Thank you.