From Greg Golf –
A few years ago a friend asked, “What are the top 3 experiences in your life that made you the person you are today?”. Without skipping a beat I was able to answer this question with certainty: traveling solo to countries where I didn’t speak the language, starting my own business and, of course, summer camp.
A short background on myself: I began attending Camp Champions in Marble Falls, TX as a 10 year old in the summer in 2004. I arrived timid and teary-eyed and left 3 weeks later with friendships I still hold dear to this day. I attended camp every summer until I was able to apply to return for the High School Leadership Program. I was accepted, completed the 3 summer program and eventually went on to become a counselor and Director.
In early 2022, Fayssoux contacted me about spending 2 weeks at Camp Pinnacle to help get the Leadership Program (known affectionately as the Wolfe Pack) got off on the right foot. She explained the program was focused on service and character building to facilitate the growth of young adults into leaders amongst their peers. As someone who grew up and worked professionally in summer camp, it was a great call to receive; as someone who wrote every college admission essay about their experiences in a High School Leadership Program, it was a dream come true. What wasn’t anticipated was that this group of the Wolfe Pack would leave a legacy as founding members of it’s first summer.
That’s nice, but what do they actually do?
The easiest way to break it down is into 5 main components: Leadership, Service, Responsibility, Fun, & Legacy.
How does one practice leadership? By leading! Every Wolfe Pack member is assigned to an adopted cabin of younger campers. They spend certain meals, evening programs, and other times with their adopted cabin to assist the counselors and learn what it takes to manage a group. They get to know their campers and experience what it is like to be role models. The opportunity to practice hands-on leadership skills in a safe and supportive environment with a counselor as a coach is invaluable. I often say that the only difference between leading a group of 8-year olds and a group of 18-year olds is the length of the words that you use.
On the 1st day of camp, we discuss how living a life in service of others can help leaders develop purpose, gratitude, and optimism in their daily lives. The Wolfe Pack arrives early to each breakfast and dinner to set the tables of their adopted cabins with food before campers arrive. During those meals, the Wolfe Pack helps serve food, entertain questions and conversation, and clear the table at the end of the meal.
As they are no longer campers, Wolfe Pack members have a lot more freedom and responsibility in the daily happenings at camp. From the time they wake up in the morning until they turn in after a long day, participants can expect to be held accountable for getting to meals, activities and workshops on time without a counselor to act as a shepherd. They are also responsible for planning their own backpacking trip over the course of the session. The backpacking trip is a 3-day-trip where the Wolfe Pack gets to decide their destination, route, menu, camp sites, the whole 9 yards! This undertaking requires a lot of critical thinking and is a highlight of the session.
It wouldn’t be a day well spent at Camp Pinnacle if fun wasn’t a major focus. Participants have opportunities to choose which regular camp activities they do, as well as many special activities that are just for the Wolfe Pack. Every afternoon, participants choose 3 activities from a list of 6 options to fill their schedule. They also get ‘off-time’, much like our counselors do, where they get to walk around downtown Hendersonville with their counselors, hit the local Farmer’s Market, and go boating on Lake Glenville.
We ask the Wolfe Pack members what type of person they would like to become and help them develop and hone the skills they will need to follow their own path. We have leadership workshops, where we discuss topics such as embracing failure, the power of optimism, owning your phone vs. letting it own you, how to avoid unhealthy societal pressures, and strategies to intentionally grow into the person they aim to be. On their backpacking trip, Wolfe Pack members write their own ‘Moral Compass’ with 4 adjectives or phrases of the type of person they hope to grow into. In following years, they will develop these into a ‘mission statement’ that will outline a path for them to live their lives intentionally with true meaning.
Read more in Part 2!