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What I Learned At Summer Camp



I spent 16 of the best summers of my life at summer camp.  I can even tell you what bunk I slept in each year as a camper.  What I didn’t know when I first stepped onto camp property as an eager (for opportunity) but shy 8 year old was how my perspective on the camp experience would change over time.


When asked “How do you describe camp?” these are some common answers: fun, activities, friends, waterfront, campfires, laughing, games, etc.  This is a solid list.  As a staff member, these words remained dominant on my list.  I actually think my list didn’t change until I was a working professional, to: personal growth, responsibility, leadership, and mentorship.


Okay – these words were part of the staff vocabulary and we were asked to think about them, but I can say that I didn’t appreciate the power of these profound words until after my camping years.


At the end of each summer, I returned home with a new “degree”.  One year, it was in conflict management, another in program coordination, and another in insanely hard work (with a minor in “lack of sleep”).


These formative summers prepared me (in the best classroom of all time) for the real world beyond camp.  My summers weren’t vacation – they were training grounds that matured me and gave me powerful skills I have used to succeed in university, as a management consultant, and as a leader.


I feel quite strongly about this.  So strong that I wrote a book using an approach the camping industry had never yet seen (My counsellor was right, I can do anything!).  The Society of Camp Directors awarded my book the 2012 Writing Award for its contribution to camping.  It’s called “The Cabin Path: Leadership Lessons Learned At Camp” and I would love if you checked it out for yourself or your children.


Written By: Jay Gilbert, HBA, MBA