Before I start it’s best that I tell you about my life prior to Wolf Ridge and how working in a summer camp is completely different to anything I have ever done before. I’m currently 19 and studying Business Management and International Business at a university in England. “Business Management? What in the world are you doing at Wolf Ridge?” A question I get asked a lot. Being focused on a career field that has nothing to do with environmental education, I was asking myself the same question.
My childhood mainly consisted of my friends and I playing video games a LOT and the rest of the time was spent at the skate park or loitering around town. I never had an interest in nature and I always found myself turning down opportunities to go on hikes or long dog walks in favor of playing video games or watching SpongeBob on TV. For a bit I was part of the boy scouts, then later on in the army cadets and Duke of Edinburgh program (a program focused on getting teenagers outdoors and leading expeditions without supervision.) Even though these programs were exciting I still had no interest in pursuing any hobbies or jobs that involved being in nature.
I came to Wolf Ridge through a program called “Camp America” For those that are not aware of Camp America, it’s a program that allows international staff to work for a summer camp in the States. Camp America takes thousands of applications, places them in a database that allows camp directors to pick and choose who they want. That means that applicants like myself are stuck anxiously waiting for an email explaining a camp’s interest.
Before I was contacted by Wolf Ridge, I was approached by 3 other camps. Each offer and camp filled a different niche. For example a Jewish camp wanted me to be to be a ‘special’ support role, which had no involvement with the kids at all. While Wolf Ridge is more nature focused than most traditional camps, they offered me a job working with kids as a counselor and assistant trip leader.
I’m glad I came to Wolf Ridge, a place I was skeptical towards and almost considered dropping out of and restarting my search for a ‘normal’ camp. The activities here such as fishery management and outdoor survival did not seem to fit in what I had pictured, but I was so wrong. Doing these camps teaches so many valuable skills. I’m so glad to have the chance to grow myself as well as to share new skills with campers. Another main difference is that Wolf Ridge gives the counselors the ability to lead trips into National Parks and wilderness areas.
I don’t know about you, but I have never been responsible for so many young lives. Being at the top of the chain knowing that what ever you say goes is an amazing but also a terrifying experience. However I feel that’s what life is about, tackling these terrifying experience is what makes you, you! I think this job is one of the hardest around but it’s also one of the most rewarding.
See the thing about Wolf Ridge is that the directors care for you more than bosses normally do. By that I mean that the directors care about you as an actual person, not just as employee that can make them a quick buck.
At the start of the summer we were asked to pick out some goals that we would want to achieve during camp and my first thought was along the lines of “This is pure cringe, what have I gotten my self into?” However four weeks into camp I found my goals had been recognized as I was placed to help staff set up outdoor rock climbing on Mystical Mountain. (For those that haven’t been to the ridge before, it is an mountain that has exceptional views and the sound of nature with minimal made-made infrastructure.) That was an unforgettable experience. And for me it was a sign that my goals were recognized — I was able to spend a morning doing something I loved and wanted to learn more about.
That is what Wolf Ridge does — it takes you in and develops you. At the end of camp I feel I will no longer be the person I was when I arrived at the front gates. I will be a new person with a better perspective on the world and the people who occupy it. There are so many people I have met and stories I wish I had time to tell you about! Even though I am only halfway through my adventure I can for sure tell you from the bottom of my heart that working at the 2016 Wolf Ridge Summer Youth Program will be best year of my life!
See you next year!
– Ben Butler