Why be a 17-year-old Camper?

Why be a 17-year-old camper? A few thoughts from Anna Hopkins, camp director Friends Camp is the only camp I know about where you can be seventeen and attend a traditional session as a camper. Many camps “age out” their campers around age 14, sometimes offering counselor-in-training programs as a substitute. I believe in the value of being a seventeen-year-old camper; There is a special privilege inherent in summer camp that gets better each year—the privilege of just being a kid in a special camp world filled with joy, adventure, and belonging. Teenagers (and many adults, if we are honest with ourselves) are rarely offered an opportunity to slow down, to step back, and to ask themselves “who do I want to be?” Two weeks at Friends Camp offers teenage campers an opportunity, away from their cell phones and computers, to spend some quiet time in reflection. Teenagers crave our morning worship and evening vespers, as well as the moments of calm listening to frogs as you fall asleep, sitting in silence around a campfire, or reading a book under a tree. Our oldest campers, those who are sixteen or seventeen, often share reflective messages during our Quaker Meetings for Worship and our closing fire circle. They are thinking about building community, about equality and openness, about their place in the world, and about their values. Meeting for worship allows our campers a venue to be authentic and thoughtful, an experience that can be difficult to achieve elsewhere in a world full of social media & over-scheduling. Some of my favorite moments at camp this last summer were seeing mentorship between a young adult counselor and an older camper. The age gap of 2-5 years [...]