Normally, after a school year’s worth of hard work, I like my summer to be nothing but sleepovers at friends’ houses and lounging about in my pajamas all day. I might even get ambitious and bike to the nearby ice cream shop and grab a milkshake. Sure, I might go to a camp or two, but most of the time, I like to spend my time with my friends or just hanging out at home. Not so this year. Over the summer, I journeyed so far out of my comfort zone as to go to – gasp! – Angola. The reason? To attend Cradle Beach Camp as a pioneer camper (PC), which is basically a leadership training program.

At first I wanted to go to Cradle Beach about as much as I’d like to be mauled by a bear. But over the course of my one and a half weeks there, I discovered something – I liked it. Not only was the experience fun, I enjoyed helping out. I kind of wanted to stay. So, this is the story of how I learned to love summer camp.

As I said before, this is not something I was looking forward to doing. I had never been there, and I had absolutely no idea what to expect. During the car ride there, I was hoping very much that my mom would say “never mind” and turn the car around. So much to my surprise – and chagrin (I was pretty much dead set on not having fun), I found out it was, in fact, an awesome and rewarding experience. Between games of basketball and hanging out with other PCs at the cabin, there was never a shortage of things to do. Even serving food to the campers and helping out with cleaning and doing the dishes was fun.

To me, however, the best thing about camp was the kids. All of them were sweet and kind, and it was a pleasure to help them. Most of the kids were disabled or disadvantaged, so going to a summer camp such as Cradle Beach is not a regular occurrence in their lives. Watching the kids’ faces light up while doing an activity they enjoyed, or helping them was the greatest feeling I could imagine. I felt like I developed a bond with every one of the kids I served and helped over the week and a half. Not only that, but hearing some of the kids’ stories made me realize how lucky I am. To me, my life may not be the most exciting, but I realized that many kids would be glad to have what I have, and they would switch places with me in a heartbeat.

I may have enjoyed the time I had to hang out with friends and play games of basketball, but if I didn’t get to work with the kids, Cradle Beach would not have been nearly as rewarding as it turned out to be.

I had never really thought of summer camp as one of the best things to do during the summer – and I had certainly never thought of it as eye-opening. But during my time at Cradle Beach, not only did I have a great time hanging out and helping the kids, my perspective on my life changed. I had gone into Cradle Beach expecting to snooze and crawl my way through a week and a half of torture, but instead the time went by before I could even blink. The past summer was one of the best I’ve had in a long time, and I’m definitely looking forward to going back to Cradle Beach next year. Who knew camp could be this cool?

...

For information on becoming a pioneer camper at Cradle Beach, visit www.cradlebeach.org/content/pages/camppc.

Zachary Jabine is a sophomore at City Honors.