by Constantine Desjardins '20
Since 1907, YMCA Camp Lawrence has offered young men a 2-8 week long program during which they can grow socially, emotionally, and physically. The camp is located on the southern tip of Bear Island on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. This summer, I returned for the tenth year in a row to work as a staff member.
From the minute the campers arrive to the minute they leave, the staff seeks to provide them with the best experience possible while at the same time leaving a meaningful impact on their lives. Each camper is assigned a cabin which they share with nine other boys their age for two weeks. Over the course of the two-week session the boys bond with each other, both in and out of the cabin. Each day the campers wake up, clean the cabin, and go to bed all as one group, forming a sense of cohesion. They also participate in activities that focus on skill development and competition so they can experience progression and success, all while having the time of their lives. Providing a safe environment in which the campers feel comfortable to take on new endeavors, and to learn that is it possible to overcome failure, is one of the most important skills we try to teach.
Over the past few years the number of kids who attend camps like Camp Lawrence has been on the decline nationwide. Many people do not see the value in sending their kids away for two weeks, and believe that there are many better uses of their child’s summer. Many would rather send their kid to a sports camp to increase their chances of getting recruited or send them to an academic program. I have even felt pressured to leave camp for other endeavors that would improve my chances of getting into an elite college. Nonetheless, I believe that my experience at camp has taught me how to be a far better person, has facilitated an immense amount of personal growth, and has been an invaluable experience.
Each day, I tried to provide the campers the same experience I had at camp, one which ingrained in me a strong sense of morality and a deep appreciation for the outdoors. When I arrived on Bear Island as an eight year old, even before I started my career at St. Albans, I never knew how much of an impact one place could have on your life. I will forever be grateful to Camp Lawrence for the experience it has provided for me, and I hope that generations of kids can have the same experience I’ve had.