June is the time of year when we become singularly focused with one thing: summer camp. Summer camp is obsession-worthy—these are the precious moments of a girl’s life when she finds herself without family and friends and must ask: who am I really? How do I build real friendships? What do I like to do (when there are no screens available)?
As we write this, girls from all over the world are here at camp building a socially safe community, one where they take risks, like shouting their poems into the Berkshire fields, or creating original plays in three hours starring themselves. Tomorrow they will break through their comfort zone to help each other succeed on the high ropes course. Each day we work to make sure their voices grow louder, their confidence grows deeper, and their friendships become more true.
To help you discover what we do here at GLI summer camp, we’ve gathered five perspectives: a new counselor, a parent, a returning camper, our co-founder, and a first time GLI-er. Each describes here what camp means to them this summer.
Wishing you a fun summer,
Simone Marean & Julia Loonin
From Jahleese Ladson, New Counselor
It’s hard to believe I started my first GLI camp experience just one week ago. It started with four days of intense training. I admittedly thought we would be spending our days sitting around going over important guidelines and schedules for camp. However, I was pleasantly surprised to begin our first meeting with an emotional check-in and games!
I’m not even going to pretend I was dismayed at the idea of playing games throughout my training days because they were side-splittingly fun and we grew to trust each other as a working team. In the end, we were 10 people from varying backgrounds who (for the most part) had recently met and who had no qualms yelling at the top of our lungs with one another.
Moreover, as we move into day three of camp it has become abundantly clear why it was essential that we spend much of our staff orientation week playing games. What we learned about ourselves through the games and workshops is exactly what we are providing for the campers. As the girls play a rousing game of Whoosh! they are shoring up their confidence and trust in one another as a group. That attitude gets carried into their workshops where they push themselves to think outside the proverbial box about what leadership and girls’ issues mean in their own experiences. I’m beginning to think that some of those Fortune 500 companies could learn a few things from GLI.
What a difference a year makes. This time last year, I was preparing to send my firstborn to the opposite coast of the U.S.—away from home longer than she’d ever been, without a family member within hundreds of miles. In the days leading up to camp I kept asking myself…would she be warm enough? Would she remember to put on sun block? Would there be anything at mealtime that she wanted to eat? Would she make any friends? Would she cry herself to sleep each night? Silly questions to the casual observer, but searing questions to a mom of a 10-year old, sending her daughter to camp for the first time.
Yesterday my daughter and I returned to drop her off for camp, exactly one year later. This time I knew she’d be warm enough, that she wouldn’t wear enough sun block, that she’d eat, that she would make friends and that she would not cry herself to sleep. This time I knew she’d be chatting, giggling, dancing and singing until lights out. Because that’s what GLI summer camp is all about: it’s not just an opportunity to experience independence, self-sufficiency and fun in a safe environment, which is what all camps can claim. Rather, GLI is where girls learn the skills to embrace their real selves, and to build authentic friendships with girls who love them for their real selves. GLI is where our daughters can learn to be true to themselves.
And if my daughter comes home a little sun burnt and missing items of clothing, I won’t complain. Because I know that she will have gained something far more important: greater knowledge of who she is, and what a real friend looks like.
From Morgan Wright, Returning Camper
Just a few days ago I arrived at GLI for my first summer as a Counselor-in-Training (CIT), and later to be my third summer as a camper. Having been here for three years, it feels like home. I know the daily schedules, routines, games, the usual homesickness and you can’t forget the 5 minute showers. The second family I call staff here at GLI grows each year as we build stronger and stronger bonds.
I knew right away it would be different being a CIT. The girls look up to me and constantly ask me questions. I was never at GLI as young as some of these girls and I’m so inspired by them; they’re all so strong and I wish I had gone here at their age. Middle School was rough for me, as it is for almost every girl, and some good old GLI love absolutely would have made Middle School about a bajillion times better. One of the biggest lessons GLI taught me (there are so many!) is that you can’t be perfect and you have to embrace yourself for who you truly are, which everyone always says to do, but GLI teaches it in ways that really help you accept yourself in positive ways. I want all these girls to know that lesson, especially at their age.
In a few weeks, I’ll be a camper again, heading to Arizona! I am wicked excited to see all the GLI sisters that I know and love. I know that we all want to teach these Navajo girls what we have all gotten out of GLI and how it’s changed each and every one of us in extraordinary ways. I know how amazing this summer is and will be and I couldn’t be more excited!
From Rachel Simmons, GLI Co-Founder
In the words of Saturday Night Live’s Linda Richmond, consider me faklempt. I can’t believe how big and beautiful GLI summer camp has become! Now in my ninth summer of girls leadership programs, I never imagined what my labor of love would become. Picture me arriving early at Miss Hall’s School this year for my first day (and not sleeping much the night before from excitement). I sat down in the empty dining hall and waited nervously…and then I heard them. Forty sixth and seventh grade girls were flooding the breakfast bar, loading up their plates and smiling. Then came the staff, more of them than we have ever had: professional teachers, college students and even GLI alums serving as CITs, clearly a tight-knit and affectionate team.
Nearly a decade ago, GLI was one week long, barely 20 girls of various ages, and a few staff. Today, we’re a force of nature. We’re changing girls’ lives and creating something truly magical, and we’re doing it for more and more girls every year. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed that morning. I am so proud of our staff, and especially our intrepid director, Simone Marean, who envisioned all of this, way back when I was writing my workshop plans on napkins. I can’t wait to see where we go next!
I love being a girl
I know when all bus partners are taken,
or when someone signals for me.
It’s a social network, unspoken,
in the air, like a texting phone’s 3G.
This wink, or that eyebrow raise, means
more than expression. Her posture,
that face, means more than comfort.
It’s not just with girls:
his red face, eyelashes, squished together in clumps,
that extra wetness, means he’s been crying.
That sigh, or growl, means he’s not happy.
But that slight upturn in his mouth,
the eyebrows, tilted microscopically up,
that means he’s happy.
I love being a girl.