The 87th season of Camp Rising Sun has come to an end. In total, 125 campers joined us for the 2017 season, including 62 girls and 63 boys. I am so lucky to have spent another summer surrounded by some of the most unique and beautifully diverse individuals from over 34 countries. As all of the campers and counselors return back to our own local communities, I want to take a moment to reflect and give thanks to the individuals who made this season happen.
To the campers
Thank you for nourishing my soul and showing me time and again how meaningful this experience can truly be. Thank you for stepping out of your comfort zones, for pushing your minds to new levels, for leaning into the constant reflection and feedback, and diving head first into the adventures this summer could give you. No camp season will ever be the same as it is constructed by the personalities and passions of the campers who attend. It brings me great joy to see the unexpected challenges and successes that the campers bring to each season. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your camp season, for letting me learn from you and join you in your memories together.
To the parents and guardians
Thank you for entrusting us with the care of your teenagers this summer. Whether your camper traveled 100 miles or 9,600 kilometers to get to camp, we know you took a leap of faith in sending your child away for four whole weeks. I truly appreciate your trust in this process. I would especially like to thank our host families who went above and beyond to provide a welcoming home away from home for our campers. Your hospitality means the world to our campers and their families. I am so grateful for the steps you took to make our campers feel comfortable as they struggled with jet lag, homesickness, and culture shock those first few days in New York. Please know that your kindness made a world of difference to the campers as they transitioned to and from camp this summer.
To the counselors
Thank you for putting your whole selves, your sweat, tears, energy, and passion into making 2017 the best experience possible for our campers. It cannot be stated enough: CRS could not happen without you. Working at a summer camp may be one of the most demanding jobs of our lives, yet by far is one of the most rewarding at the same time. Thank you for braving the stargazing tower and enduring the bug bites on your face after sleeping out under the stars. Thank you for providing a shoulder to cry on and a shirt to soak up the tears of a homesick camper. Thank you for waking up early for yoga or swimming after staying up late for tent talks the night before; for standing by the campers' sides, interpreting communication over the walkies, and providing meaningful feedback as each pair of campers led the community through the days of camp; for being a little crazy sometimes (or all the time) in order to make the campers laugh and show that it is okay to be vulnerable, have fun, and try new things. Thank you for being there in every moment of the season. You made a difference in the lives of our campers, and they will remember you for life.
To the alumni
Thank you to the CRS alumni who devote their time as volunteers, visiting instructors, board and committee members, fundraisers, and selectors. Your work behind the scenes allows us to create this magical camp experience each summer. Thank you to the volunteers who started their work nearly a year ago to select the deserving students who attended Camp Rising Sun this summer. We appreciate the time you spent meeting with students and parents, answering questions, providing resources for visa applications, coordinating send-off gatherings, and even writing letters of support once campers had arrived in New York. Our alumni also contributed directly to the camp season by visiting to give instructions, serving on the visit team, communicating with parents back home, providing support in the kitchen or wellness center, and more generally spending a week up at camp as a volunteer counselor. I am proud to welcome our newest campers to this vast, global network of incredible Camp Rising Sun alumni.
This summer, I saw how the campers’ drive and passion brought new projects to fruition such as the gaga ball pit, lean-to, see-saw, stargazing tower ladder, and the time capsule. Camper and counselor-led instructions on everything from Rubik's cubes, invariants in mathematics, Chinese lion dance, composing, floorball, a public debate forum, Scottish dance, immigration, cultural appropriation, and women in science provoked critical thinking and expanded the intellectual horizons of all who attended. I will cherish the memories of canoeing on the lake, singing and fireworks, seeing the ants go marching past my window in the office, hearing the philosophical thoughts and laughter from tent hill late at night, seeing the smiles on the see saw and tire swing, and all the other little moments when the campers were able to leave the stress and pressure of “real life” behind, and let themselves be present in the moments of happiness cross-cultural learning that can happen at camp.
I am so lucky to be surrounded by the campers, counselors, alumni, and friends of Camp Rising Sun who continually challenge me to open my mind and my heart to the unknowns of life in order to better myself and the world around me. To the campers, counselors, parents, alumni, selectors, and friends of CRS, thank you again, and I look forward to working with you all as we begin the journey towards Camp Rising Sun 2018.
-Janessa Schilmoeller, Camp Director