Last week I had the chance to sit down and chat with our Summer Camp leadership staff, Nikki Bryant and Jay Davis. It was an opportunity to learn more about them, their connection to summer camp and the ways that they’ve seen Hidden Villa Summer Camp impact our campers.
(Jay in red on left, Nikki in red on right)
What do you think is the most impactful part of Hidden Villa summer camp?
J: We open campers up to new physical and emotional opportunities, while guiding them with positive role models of all different backgrounds. As a director, I look at the logistical side of summer camp, yet my grandest connection to camp came from goodbyes as a counselor. The connection of camper to counselor is strong and impactful. You can have camp anywhere because it’s the people that will make the biggest impact.
N: Hidden Villa Summer Camp is a youth space that empowers them with choice. Youth today have to go to school, do homework, and engage in all kinds of extracurricular activities. When campers are here they are encouraged to make choices for themselves. Year after year campers return, showing they want to be here and appreciate these spaces that encourage them to use their voice.
Can you tell us about your most memorable experience at Hidden Villa summer camp?
N: The camp magic is something you know on an intellectual level is happening all the time, everywhere. It is in the subtle moments that happen all the time. You see a group of kids that have spent a week together and they don’t want to get in the car at the end of the week. Those kids want to hold on to a feeling that is profound and healthy. Yet, what makes camp so fabulous is that it ends. It couldn’t go on forever or else the magic would die out.
J: I appreciate the amount of reflection sessions that happen here around issues of gender, race, food justice, outdoor living skills, what we can do to protect the land, and familial structures. I’ve found Tipi Camp “Float Nights” especially important. It is a time where the group of 9-10 year olds make some kind of commitment to caring for the Earth. They get to decide their commitment and it is quite powerful to hear their thoughts and watch them experience the night together.
When did you gain interest in working at summer camp?
N: I knew I wanted my job when I was 7. I was sent to camp by my parents and didn’t know that that’s what was happening. I was just getting on a bus. I was very young and accidentally signed up for a 2-week session. It shaped my life.
After that summer I spent the majority of my year waiting for camp. As a young person one of my long-term goals was to become a summer staff member because it would allow me to be at camp all summer long. The first year as staff was a pretty steep learning curve, and yet I’ve been back ever since.
I struggled in school for many different reasons and camp was my opportunity to be me, re-invent who I was. Camp created an environment that opened my world to new perspectives and changed the way I thought. Doing this learning is community is a prime opportunity for growth.
J: It was more about camp finding me. I cared for the children of a family that owned a summer camp. They had to convince me that I would enjoy working at summer camp, but as soon as I was there I knew I would be hooked for life. It was the right kind of growth within a healthy group environment. The best thing about camp was that our individual traits were looked at as strengths. Instead of judging others there was a focus on connecting and moving forward with you.
At Hidden Villa we take the experiential opportunity and direct it towards a purpose - to inspire a just and sustainable future. We facilitate these growth opportunities for young people to engage with peers of all backgrounds through shared experiences.