Around 90 students volunteer to be counselors at the Camp Wyman sixth grade retreat every year.
Students volunteer for one of three weeks, each week a different Hixson team: Bravery, Integrity or Unity. The high school students arrive on Monday to train and prepare, and sixth grade campers arrive on Tuesday. Throughout the week, students and campers participate in team bonding activities, sleep in cabins and at the end of the week, have a campfire.
Each cabin has around nine sixth graders, with at least one– usually two– high school counselors assigned to each cabin.
Senior Violet Tarr was a counselor for Team Integrity. During her week, Tarr said there were two cabins with only one counselor, hers being one.
“It was definitely stressful at times,” Tarr said, explaining, “It’s a different, new social situation for them to be in a cabin with nine girls from their schools. [They are] living together instead of just going to school together, so it was hard to help them adjust.”
“I was okay having nine girls to myself because I felt confident that I was responsible enough,” Tarr explained.
Senior Lucas Kaplan was a counselor for Team Bravery during week two. Kaplan explained some struggles he had in his cabin.
“They were pretty energetic… They would run around and climb on stuff. [One of the teachers] said she gave us one of the more energetic ones because I did it the year before,” Kaplan said.
Senior Vanessa Schroeder, who was also a counselor for Team Bravery, said her days started at 6:30 a.m. “We’d get up and clean the cabin, and then we would go down to breakfast and have to sing songs,” she explained.
After breakfast, students spent time in “activity groups,” doing team-building activities.
“There were six activities: living history, aquatic ecology, team scores, fishing, geocaching [and] target sports,” Kaplan said.
Living history was most students’ favorite part of the week. “We got to learn about how people lived in the past… doing stuff with wood and making soap,” Kaplan explained.
“My favorite part was probably making apple cobbler. I was in an activity group with my friends, so that was pretty fun,” Schroeder said.
Students are eligible to earn service hours for their time through the Chelsea Center. The hours can count towards A+ service hours.
Overall, students said they learned a lot from the experience about how to be a good role model and leader.
“It was difficult at first, just kind of meeting the kids, but once you sort of meet them, you treat them like you would a friend or something, and it got easier. It was easier to sort of take responsibility for them,” Schroeder said.
“I definitely learned a lot of patience. They’re sixth graders, and they said and did a lot of things that I didn’t expect them to say or that weren’t appropriate…Sometimes I was their friend and sometimes I had to step up and be a counselor,” Tarr said.
Seniors, juniors and sophomores are eligible to volunteer, but seniors are given priority.
“With this being their last opportunity, we want them to be able to experience being a counselor before they graduate,” assistant activities director Chris Johnson said via email.
Students may not be eligible to volunteer if they have excessive absences, Johnson said, but other factors like GPA are not considered.
“We want everyone to feel comfortable signing up,” Johnson said.
This will be Hadley Hoskins’ second year on Echo staff.