This summer, Wyman was thrilled to welcome residential campers back to Camp Wyman for the first time since 2019. Both the staff and Wyman Leaders teens have been looking forward to this immersive camp experience and recently wrapped up camp sessions filled with connection, engagement, and experiences in nature.
Wyman Leaders is a 9-year program, supporting teens as they enter and complete college and career education programs, develop life and leadership skills, and create strong connections to their peers and their communities. A lot of those friendships are developed during their summer, residential camp experiences which is why their time spent with coaches and peers at camp is important – particularly this year.
Since the spring of 2020, students have been adapting to countless changes, including the absence of in-person learning and peer-group experiences. The opportunity to come to camp and spend this time fully engaged is something special that this group of teens has been missing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At Wyman, they want to help you come out of your shell. And that is very uncomfortable for a lot of people – especially with this particular group. For two years they were on the computer screen,” says Demesha King, a Wyman Leaders alumna who returned to camp this summer as a practicum student and camp counselor. “The only way they know how to talk to each other is through a phone. To have them come together, talk to each other, do activities and resolve conflicts – it’s challenging. But to have them out here in nature and give them the same experience I had is exciting.”
Some campers had a tough time with virtual learning and the lack of socialization opportunities with their peers. “I like to be outside with my friends, so I missed how it was,” said one of this years’ campers. “Camp is fun. You are out around people and able to make friends. Some things have been challenging, but I was able to overcome them. I’m glad I did camp because I got to meet new people, have fun, and do things I’ve never done before.”
Another of this year’s campers had been eagerly anticipating the return to in-person activities. “So far, the experience has been good. I’m used to being social. Virtual learning was different. When I am around other people, it is more fun and I interact more.”
A central theme at camp encourages teens to step out of their comfort zone and into their ‘challenge zone’. For some campers this year, that included socialization and extended time spent with their peers. Though one camper had been eagerly awaiting the camp experience, it was a tough adjustment. “I’ve been waiting to do camp since I got in in 7th grade, so I am happy I’m here! It’s a little challenging, but I enjoy it. It’s nice being able to socialize with people again, but I also got so used to it that I like being by myself.”
Demesha knows firsthand that camp is not always an easy experience. “I went through all of this. I was feeling what they were feeling, all of these emotional and mental developments, and not being too sure of themselves as a person. It’s resistance, it’s home sickness, it’s getting along with new people. It’s not just fun, it’s actually challenging work. For them and for us. But I feel like it’s worth the challenge.”
By the end of camp, this year’s Leaders group was more confident in their communication skills. When asked if the experience has been uncomfortable, one of this year’s campers exclaimed, “No! I mean yeah, some things, because I stepped out my comfort zone. But I am back to being comfortable with it because once you do it, it doesn’t seem as bad as you think it is.”