In a society in which we’re encouraged to fit in, Camp Winston and its residents stand out like the Northern Star — noticeable, bright and wonderful. Many of our campers have never been accepted by peers, but surrounded by other unique, interesting individuals, they fit in like never before.
When I arrived at Camp Winston for the 2015 season, I had just graduated from a Concurrent Education program. After five years of education, I felt that I was missing something that would enhance my effectiveness as a teacher. I knew it would be easy to go back to my old summer job, a comfortable place with familiar faces. My mom encouraged me to look for other opportunities that would push me outside my comfort zone.
I ended up applying to a few different camps that offer similar programs to Camp Winston, which caters to kids with complex neurological challenges. As soon as I ended my Skype interview with the directors, I knew it was the place I needed to be; there is no other way to explain how I made that decision except instinct.
As a result of that decision, my idea of what it means to be a teacher has been completely altered. I started out that summer thinking I had a good handle on what it meant to “be a teacher.” Was I ever wrong!
The children at this camp laugh louder and smile brighter despite the challenges they face day in and out. In two months, they taught me more about teaching exceptional individuals than I could ever have absorbed in a classroom. But even as my knowledge about ASD, ADHD, Tourette’s and other neurological conditions deepened, the real growth I experienced was as a person. This camp not only teaches skills to children through new activities (and does it phenomenally well), it is also a place to discover more about yourself, whether you are a child or staffer.
The co-learning that went on between the campers and counsellors was absolutely life-changing, and I carry the lessons with me every single day.