Highlight of 2021: Experiential Leadership

by Eleanor Young, 2021 CREA Counselor-in-Training (CIT)

So many warm feelings and memories flood my mind as soon as the word “CREA” is said. This was my first official year as a CIT, let alone a camper at CREA. I have been to the nature preserve, and traveled the paths, but I never went to the camp, in fact I didn’t go to any camps as a child until I was 12. I have always had a shy side of me, especially around peers close to my age, so I would instantly turn down the chance of going to a summer camp. But going this year is something I’ll never forget. Saying that CREA was a fun experience is simply an understatement. Going improved almost everything in my life. 

I started out at the camp knowing very few ways of taking care of children. Throughout the 2 weeks I was there, I learned about 60 different names, and developed strong and meaningful connections to the campers. It was interesting to learn about each kid, and teach them about myself as well. By the end of camp I had learned some new strategies with kids from the other counselors, and I also developed them on my own.  Not only did I make connections with the kids, but I really bonded with the other CIT’s and counselors. I’m lucky to have been surrounded with such an astounding community of people. 

As soon as my first day was over, I was eager for the next one to start. I loved spending 7 1/2 hours outside each day, playing games, exploring rivers, hiking, finding animals and a lot more. I learned many new facts about nature (a lot of them coming from the campers!). One of the many highlights I took away from this experience was setting turtle traps with the other CIT’s, we didn’t end up catching any, but just the experience of putting on waders, and walking into the pond brings pure joy to my heart. I also grew as a person and leader. I learned that it’s ok to be direct, and that being yourself is the best way to go. I also learned how healthy it is and how it feels to go out of your comfort zone.

Going to CREA camp was the highlight of my year, and made me the happiest I’ve been in a long time. The combination of staying in nature, being around kids, and leading with the CIT’s and counselors made me my best self, and leaves me grateful for this experience. And it’s certainly not over, I’ll be coming back every summer I can throughout highschool and college. So all in all I believe CREA is great for anyone, whether they’re going to be a camper, a CIT, or a counselor.