By Amanda Warwick
Dear Camp Harlam,
I cannot thank you enough. I have been so privileged to be apart of your waterfront the past three years. The people I have met through this team, the relationships that have thrived, and the amount I have learned is unbelievable. I am incredibly grateful. It is hard to believe how quickly time passes and how much has changed in just three, short years.
In 2017, I was a Counselor in Training and tried many facets of camp, however, I was drawn to waterfront. The day before our training began, I learned how to swim properly with the help of a lifeguard, Issac Kravatz. I didn’t know how to correctly swim freestyle or breaststroke and in the words of the waterfront supervisor at the time, Erica Strauss, “you look like you’re drowning when you swim.” She was not wrong. The next day, I completed the prerequisite of training, part of which required swimming laps and after I had finished, I felt on top of the world. While the excitement grew, the endorphins quickly faded, and self doubt came over me. This was a time in my life when I cared deeply about what other people thought of me and it showed when I was at waterfront. While my CIT summer was one of my favorites, and I loved waterfront, I felt self-conscious.
The following year, I returned as a waterfront specialty counselor. Unfortunately, I had to miss the week of lifeguard training due to high school graduation. While I was eager to be a staff member, I felt unprepared as I missed crucial training, and still lacked the confidence I had desired the previous summer.
This summer, it is my second year on staff and I am a senior camp counselor. Unlike last summer, I was present during training week. I had more waterfront experience than over half the team who were mostly new lifeguards from other countries. As opposed to being taught, I was doing the teaching. Abilities which I had mastered were brand new to my peers. My confidence grew exponentially. Training (with the exception of the bitterly cold pool and rain) was a breeze.
The skills I had once struggled with became instinctual. The swim lessons I didn’t know how to teach became routine. The nerves I once carried became nonexistent. My friends who were CITS with me went from accepting help to offering help. As CITS, we learned from lifeguards and now we, the lifeguards, teach the CITS. We went from assisting swim lessons to leading them on our own.
I am now the mentor of two “generations” of waterfront staff members.
Since being on waterfront I have learned how to turn every instructional swim skill into a game, create a perfect whirlpool, and that the swimming pool song is a must when treading. I have learned how to obtain a chipwich during snack time, jump into the pool exactly on the beat drop of a song, and know which lifeguard stand is the best in the lake (it would be the slide). Should these skills be handy in the future, I will be fully prepared. But beyond these tips and tricks lie valuable life lessons.
Waterfront has taught me to have patience, especially when circumstances do not go according to plan. It has taught me that a child will still know how to swim even if they don’t listen during instructional swim. But the most important lesson I have learned by far is that I am capable of far more than I believe; that when I set my mind to a goal, it is achievable. I have learned to feel sure of myself; not to second guess. As a result, my confidence has soared. To be a part of this team has been a major blessing in my life.
Seeing where I have come, I believe that it is time I move on to other things next summer. Although I may not return this coming year, it certainly does not mean it will be my last summer with Camp Harlam. While I wish my journey could continue at camp, I believe I need to use what I have learned, to better the world. I will use my interpersonal experiences to further my path in psychology. I will use my camper experiences to exude empathy to all who I meet. And I will use my newly found confidence to support other people in finding their own. Camp Harlam has given me everything it can offer and it is time I give back.
With all my heart,
Amanda Warwick is from Moorestown, New Jersey. This fall, she will be a sophomore in college studying psychology. She is a big fan of Yellow Meal at camp. This is her fourth summer at Harlam.