Camp DeWolfe Blog
Do you serve in full-time ministry? Are you a priest or pastor or full-time ministry or lay leader? Do you know someone who is? Camp DeWolfe is here to support you and say thank you! Enjoy a free one-night, two-day getaway retreat to Camp DeWolfe!
Contact the Camp Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (631) 929 4325 to book your retreat in the Benson House this season.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” (1 Thessalonians5:11)
The middle and high school years are filled with challenges, change, and promise. Perhaps more than anything else, parents hope that their children will be prepared to be productive and successful young men and women of good character. I call this “readiness.” They also want their children to avoid risky behavior that might very well interfere with healthy development.
Camps play a critical role in promoting readiness and reducing risk by helping children build four essential pillars of success:
1.Sense of Self
2.Rites of Passage
3.Positive Risk Taking
Each has been linked with positive youth outcomes and risk reduction related to such behaviors as underage drinking, other drug use, and early intimate sexual behavior. They also relate to overall mental health.
While I have shared these concepts in prior Camping Magazine articles, this piece reflects the aggregation of activities related to each that promotes forward movement in youth development and decision making.
Sense of Self
Sense of self is an original construct developed to measure, quantitatively, a young person’s progress on three important developmental tasks: identity formation, independence, and peer relationships.
For both boys and girls, at the most basic level, the sense of self informs and directs their outward behavior while, at the same time, affecting overall mood and physical/ mental health. In other words, a young person who “feels good” about himself is less likely to make poor choices. This is not so much because he’s having a good day as opposed to a bad one, but rather because he feels some sense of accomplishment in rising to the developmental challenges that face him without resorting to risky behavior to feel more grown up, more independent, or more in control.
Unlike self-concept (a fairly objective description of oneself, such as “I am short”) or self-esteem (a more subjective evaluation of that description, such as “being short is bad”), sense of self — as I have defined it in my research — is a more global term that captures young people’s assessments of their own progress on the developmental continuum of figuring out “who” they are when it comes to things such as personality, sociability, sexuality, and eventually, employability; achieving an appropriate degree of separation from their parents, including developing an internal locus of control (self-directed) as opposed to relying on an external one (other-directed); and establishing more adult-like relationships with their peer group that may appear qualitatively different than those from early childhood in terms of depth and longevity.
Such successes lead to more positive feelings about their place in the world, family, and peer group. For example, high sense of self youth tend to describe themselves as smart, successful, responsible, and confident.
Fourteen-year-old Christopher tells me he is “energetic, smart, kind, and easy to get along with.” He also rates himself on the high end of a scale measuring such traits as happiness, optimism, success, and resiliency. Similarly, thirteen-year-old Tonya describes herself as happy, capable, and successful, saying, “I have a nice personality and people like being around me.” Those are important considerations because when it comes to decision making, the data make clear that high sense of self kids feel better, make better decisions, and enjoy interpersonal relationships more than their low sense of self peers do (Teens Today, March 2004). They are also more resistant to negative pressure from friends and are more inclined to feel positive about their relationships with parents.
On the other side of the coin, low sense of self kids are more likely to drink alcohol, to use other drugs to escape from or forget about problems, to have friends who use drugs (an important risk factor), to cite boredom and depression as reasons to have sex, and to feel strongly that it is OK to drive after drinking or using other drugs.
This last point is of increasing concern as new research from the SADD organization (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and Liberty Mutual Insurance, as reported last April, reveals that roughly one quarter of young drivers (23 percent) say they drive under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs (2013).
What Camps Can Do
It will not come as a surprise to camp directors that their counselors hold tremendous power to positively affect the campers. This is certainly the case when it comes to promoting a positive sense of self. For example, they can:
•Encourage campers to pursue a wide range of interests and a sampling of activities.
•Support campers as they adjust to separation from their parents and learn to solve problems on their own or to seek help from their counselors.
•Teach and role model appropriate social skills that will aid them in establishing and maintaining friendships within the camp community.
Rites of Passage
As young people hurtle toward maturity, they actively seek confirmation that they are successfully passing important milestones. Yet unlike earlier generations, today’s youth seem to have few opportunities to celebrate their growing independence.
In earlier American culture, movement toward adulthood was often accompanied by ritualistic, meaningful celebrations of more independence and responsibility to family and community. These often included joining dad in work (farming, for example, or at the family store) for boys and learning homemaking (such as cooking and sewing) for girls.
Without a reasonable recognition of milestones — such as puberty, school change, receiving a driver’s permit or license, or even receiving a first set of house keys — young people may seek alternative routes to “maturity,” including engaging in destructive, or potentially destructive, behaviors. In doing so they are figuratively shouting, “Hey, look at me. I’m growing up!”
An example of this can be found in recent data from the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) at Susquehanna University (CARE/SADD, 2012). Its study of risk behavior by high school students staying overnight on college campuses as part of their school selection process revealed that many engage in certain “adult” activities for the first time. For example, more than half who reported drinking or engaging in some type of sexual activity during the visit had not done so before.
Other research from SADD (Teens Today, 2005) showed that young people whose parents pay the least attention to significant transition periods are more likely than those whose parents pay the most attention to engage in high-risk behaviors. Perhaps not surprising, they also seem more prone to depression and more likely to report daily stress in their lives.
Physically and socially, kids today experience a shorter childhood and an elongated adolescence. Many struggle through this vast, vague period of human development, and it is during this time, more than ever before, that they seek initiations that demonstrate their approach to adulthood. When we honor their wishes, spoken or not, we aid young people in building sturdy bridges between who they were, who they are, and who they are becoming. In turn, those connections help them with their search for meaning and purpose, all the while preparing them to be productive, contributing members of their families, schools, communities, and society.
It is important to remember that there is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to what young people perceive as an important step on the road to adulthood. Some may be obvious, like a graduation, while others may be more subtle and difficult to discern.
I recall the disappointment described by a young woman who, when she proudly brought home her first paycheck, was greeted with an admonition that it was going straight into a college fund. She saw the check as an important sign of a new level of maturity and responsibility. Her parents, on the other hand, viewed it simply as a practical means to help fund her college education.
Fifteen-year-old Kevin describes his important milestones as “getting a defined vision of who I am, having my first real girlfriend, being exposed to alcohol, and making my own decisions.”
What Camps Can Do
Camp counselors have important opportunities to recognize key milestones in the lives of their tween and teen campers and are well advised to:
•Tune into the things that seem important in their life at camp, such as friends, sports, and awards.
•Ask how they feel about transitions at school and at home.
•Talk about the importance of their own personal milestones (when appropriate).
•Watch for signs of happiness, joy, stress, anxiety, or depression around recent or impending change.
Of course, summer camps are often built around structured activities with goal-oriented outcomes and recognition. They may also be infused with long-imbedded traditions that mark growth and achievement. In that sense, we’ve already “set the table” for our staff to engage the campers in casual dialogue about, or formal reward for, significant growth.
Positive Risk Taking
Two long-held tenets of education are that young people, particularly tweens and teens, are 1. hardwired to take risks, and 2. if we can steer them toward positive risk taking they’ll be less likely to take negative risks (Teens Today, November 2004).
The second is important because it recognizes that positive risks exist. Many adults automatically link risk taking with negative outcomes, while the majority of youth (52 percent) default to the belief that risk taking refers to positive activities (Teens Today, November 2004).
In truth, there are good risks and bad risks. Negative risks and positive risks. Risks that thwart healthy development and leave children susceptible to physical, emotional, social, and legal harm and risks that actually promote well-being, satisfaction, and advancement. After all, it is quite possible that whatever sense of maturity, independence, or social status young people might find in getting drunk they might also find by learning to sail, shoot an arrow, or pass a hard-to-reach swim level.
When we sort risk taking by type, we see the keys to helping young people succeed. For example, those who seek out positive risks are 20 percent more likely than those who don’t to avoid alcohol and other drugs and to cite concern for academic performance. They are also more likely than kids who avoid taking positive risks to describe themselves as responsible, confident, successful, and optimistic; to report feeling happy; and to consider potential negative outcomes of destructive behaviors (Teens Today, November 2004).
As you might guess, these young people are also less likely to suffer from boredom and depression. Why? Likely because they are engaged in meaningful activity and challenged in meaningful ways.
With risk taking, as with rites of passage, a positive risk for one child may be a “walk in the park” for another, thus not representing a risk at all. A shy, introverted child probably finds that just coming to camp is a significant risk while a popular extrovert may find it an obvious choice. Other young people may have no problem trying out for the camp play but may be terrified of signing up for the soccer game. Thus, it is important for counselors to adequately gauge what represents risk for each child and then encourage each of them to engage in activities that truly represent steps outside of their personal comfort zone.
Positive risk taking by young people includes social risks (such as going to camp); emotional risks (such as asking a girl to dance or sharing personal feelings); and physical risks (such as trying waterskiing for the first time).
What Camps Can Do
Summer camps are rife with opportunities for young people to take positive risks. And in my experience, they often feel “safer” doing so at camp than at school.
There are a number of ways we can help our campers take positive risks:
•Model socially inclusive behavior.
•Identify and discuss emotional reactions to issues or events.
•Encourage consideration of higher-level (harder) activities.
•Support involvement in new activities (such as arts for the athletes and ath¬letics for the artists).
In these ways, young people may begin to internalize the value inherent in “pushing the envelope” in positive, healthy directions while satisfying their natural curiosity about, and propensity for, testing their own limits in a safe and supervised environment.
The fourth pillar of success is perhaps the most important: mentors. A review of available data points to evidence of positive effects of mentoring. For example, it has been shown to:
•Enhance school performance.
•Improve relationships with parents and peers.
•Reduce initiation of drug and alco¬hol use.
•Decrease incidents of youth violence.
We also know that mentoring is closely linked with other important psychological/sociological constructs, such as positive youth development, resiliency, and risk/protective factors.
While this data reflects formal or “matched” mentoring, similarly positive results were revealed (Wallace, 2010) in my study of informal mentors — individuals whom young people get to know and rely on in their everyday lives — teachers, coaches, neighbors, aunts, uncles . . . and camp staff!
Here’s what I found:
•Young people who identify at least one influential, “natural” mentor in their lives report that they have a higher sense of self and are more likely to take risks that affect their lives positively.
•Young people with mentors are significantly more likely than those without to also report frequently feeling happy and less likely to report regularly feel¬ing depressed or bored.
Notably, more than half of teens themselves (56 percent) say the absence of a mentor would negatively affect them (Teens Today, 2006)!
So, what are kids looking for in a mentor? Here are the characteristics identified by more than 3,000 kids: trustworthy, caring, understanding, respectful, helpful, dependable, fun, compassionate, and responsible. They also want someone who is a good listener and offers good advice (Teens Today, 2006).
What Camps Can Do
Plain and simple, we can encourage our counselors to be intentional about establishing supportive, mentoring relation¬ships with our campers. One good way to do that is to point out the efficacy of such relationships in producing positive youth outcomes. Another is to share with them the characteristics kids identified as important in successful mentors.
So, when it comes to risk reduction, does camp make a difference? The data say yes! As I have reported before, young people who participate in camp are significantly more likely to report being highly mentored (37 percent versus 23 percent), taking positive risks (48 percent versus 30 percent), and having a high sense of self (53 percent versus 40 percent) (Wallace, 2013).
In the aggregate, young people who have not spent time at a summer camp are twice as likely as those who have to report that they are repeaters, as opposed to avoiders, of destructive behaviors (8 percent versus 16 percent) (Wallace, 2010).
Ready, Set, Go!
In the final analysis, our counselors can best help to ready children for success by being truly present in their lives, during the summer and long after.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2012). AAP study documents early puberty onset in boys. Healthychildren.org. Retrieved from www.healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/AAP-Study-Documents-Early-Puberty-Onset-in-Boys.aspx
CARE/Susquehanna University and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). (2012). CARE/SADD survey investigates risky behaviors by teens on college visits. Retrieved from http://sadd.org/press/presspdfs/FINAL_CARE_052912.pdf
Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). (2013). One in four teens admits to driving under the influence and many believe it does not impact their safety. Retrieved from www.libertymutualgroup.com/omapps/ContentServer?fid=3237831502381&pagename=LMGroup%2FViews%2FLMG&ft=8&cid=2237833722148
Teens Today. (2006). New study shows teens with “natural” mentors have higher sense of self and take more positive risks. Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Liberty Mutual Insurance. Retrieved from http://sadd.org/eenstoday/mentors.htm
Teens Today. (2005). Teens report parental inattention to their important “rites of passage” has high price tag. Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Liberty Mutual Insurance. Retrieved from www.sadd.org/teenstoday/rites.htm
Teens Today. (March 2004). National study links teens’ “sense of self” to alcohol, drug use and sex. Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Liberty Mutual Insurance. Retrieved from http://sadd.org/teenstoday/survey04.htm
Wallace, Stephen. (2013). Camp or college? Families face a Hobson’s choice. Camping Magazine 86(1).
Wallace, Stephen. (2008). Reality gap — Alcohol, drugs and sex: What parents don’t know and teens aren’t telling. New York: New York. Union Square Press/Sterling Publishing Company.
Stephen Gray Wallace, MS Ed, author of the book Reality Gap — Alcohol, Drugs, and Sex: What Parents Don’t Know and Teens Aren’t Telling, has broad experience as a school psychologist and adolescent counselor. He serves as director of counseling and counselor training at the Cape Cod Sea Camps, senior advisor for policy, research, and education at SADD, and associate research professor and director of the Center for Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) at Susquehanna University. For more information about Stephen’s work, visit www.stephengraywallace.com. Copyright Summit Communications Management Corporation 2013 All Rights Reserved
Photo courtesy of Pali Adventures, Running Springs, CA.
Originally published in the 2013 November/December Camping Magazine
One of the core values at Camp DeWolfe is ‘Purposeful Community’. What an amazing thing for temporary communities like Camps or Retreat Centers to encourage groups to be intentional, to engage with each other in positive ways, to develop trust and increase communication, all so that upon return to their permanent communities, people feel more empowered to continue to live out their unique calling and identity in their wider community!
Through the Adventure Challenge Program at Camp DeWolfe, groups of up to 25 individuals come together to tackle a variety of team challenges, initiatives both on the field, and on the low ropes and high ropes courses. This process can be a memorable and fun experience for any groups from ages 10 plus as each group comes together to work through it’s unique group dynamic!
Recently, several youth groups and school groups have had their own Adventure Challenge experience at Camp DeWolfe. Here are some pictures of last weekend’s group from BOCES – a team of social workers – who came together to build trust and engage in their team! A fun experience! Our hope and prayer is for each group to meet each other where they are at, in authentic ways and to grow together in community!
In the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, there are over 140 Episcopal parishes that span from Brooklyn to Montauk Point. Each family, parish and community across this Dominion in the Sea together make up the body of Christ, as part of the larger Christian community across Long Island, New York, the USA and even globally.
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)
Today, at Camp DeWolfe we caught another glimpse of this body of Christ in a tangible way, when over around 20 volunteers attended a Service Saturday. Volunteers of all ages from five different parishes across the Diocese gave their time and energy to painting cabin doors and screens, gardening, tree trimming and running fall clean up to care for their Diocesan Camp! What a gift to interact over lunch and over work projects with dedicated and enthusiastic men, women and children of God!
During my summer at Camp DeWolfe I saw God many different times. The times I felt God’s presence the strongest were whenever we were in the St Luke’s Chapel. The back window overlooks the Long Island Sound. You can see Jesus on the cross, trees, and the Long Island Sound from the right view. I have felt that this view alone embodies Camp DeWolfe and Christian Formation.
I experienced several highs this summer at each different camp session. These highs started with the youngest group at Explorer Camp where many campers were staying away from home for the first time. I went from seeing children sad to say goodbye to their parents, to crying while saying bye to their new friends at the end of the session.
The second group of campers at Discovery Camp showed the most improvement as a camp community. In the beginning, many campers weren’t sure of their beliefs and faith. By the end of the session, the youth were taking leadership and ownership of Christian Formation. The final camp – Adventure Camp had the most mature and helpful campers. They sought to make an impression on the staff and they were successful. Their nightly devotions contained many inner reflections. As a Unit Leader, I enjoyed watching the campers and counselors grow with each camp!
By Mike Tuleja
Working as a counselor here at Camp DeWolfe has been a truly unforgettable experience. I loved the opportunity to experience the American way of life and to explore the culture. Any slight difference between the cultures always amazed me! I have met so many new people and made new friends from all over the world, from as far away as Australia and from as close as the UK.
During the five weeks of camp there have been uncountable highlights but I have particularly enjoyed watching the campers grow and build friendships with one another. Many of them come to camp feeling shy and overwhelmed but when they leave they are brimming with confidence and have huge smiles on their faces. Its a great feeling when you challenge a camper to try something new and at the end of the day they tell you that they have succeeded in your challenge. All the kids have so much potential, they sometimes just need someone to believe in them to help them take that first step.
The sense of community here at Camp DeWolfe is phenomenal. I have witnessed God through this amazing community, in the way that everyone interacts, looks out for and welcomes one another. Our daily Christian formation programme became a highlight for the campers, they especially enjoyed the opportunity to worship God. The joy experienced by all whilst worshipping God was immense. Finally, I loved the camp emphasis on appreciating nature. We spent everyday outdoors, rain or shine. There is no better way to see how awesome God is than to spend your days outdoors in his breath taking creation.
My summer here at Camp DeWolfe has been a real adventure and I have loved every minute of it! I have grown so much simply by being here. Thank you so much Camp DeWolfe!
-By Rachael McSparron
This month at Camp DeWolfe, our Summer Unit Leaders, Mike and Megan Tuleja chose to stay on and serve into the early fall retreat season, before they begin their new roles in a residential care ministry in Texas. This hard-working and dedicated couple have given their all to serving campers and staff in the summer camp season, and also have served faithfully in giving Camp DeWolfe a fall make-over!
The Tuleja’s have painted the Davis Dining Hall, the Arts and Crafts Room, the Female Cabins, the Male Cabins, and a variety of other facilities and locations across Camp! They have power-washed, deep-cleaned, painted, varnished, stained and brush-cleared a range of facilities, grounds and buildings at Camp – ready for the retreat season and in preparation for next summer camp 2014!
We are thankful for the faithfulness and enthusiasm this couple have given to the Camp DeWolfe ministry! Keep them in your prayers as they transition to their next chapter in Texas!
It’s the first day of school, 31 children in my class and lots of shy faces. Throughout the day I asked them, “How was your summer? What did you do?” I can only imagine how our campers will respond to this question.
Our campers had so many opportunities to bond with each other and bond with God through the pure beauty found on the grounds of Camp DeWolfe. Each day at camp I woke feeling fresh. I knew each day was a new day to bring smiles and happiness to the campers and my co counselors.
I was known at camp for my singing (which isn’t good, at all, in any way). I sang loud in the morning to wake my cabin up, I sang loud at Christian formation to motivate the campers during worship, and I even sang loud with my co-counselors just for fun. Those small snippets of bliss found in singing even when we didn’t know the words are my most treasured memories while at camp. Singing was my go-to icebreaker; singing was my way to turn a home sick camper into a pop star in less than a minute. Prior to this camp season, I never realized how something so simple could really make a difference.
I experience God this summer during devotional circles in our cabins. During this time, we established a sense of family and trust within the cabin. During each session our campers shared with us how their faith impacts their lives. They shared their obstacles, their achievements and their goals. Here is where I saw God’s most precious creations, these children, become empowered and confident.
Camp was like a bubble for this kids; a bubble filled with s’mores, new friends, and fun. These kids look forward to the next camp season all year long, as do I. I cannot wait for the next camp season, until then I will be practicing my singing!
-By Stephany Turcios
Camp Counselor/Arts and Crafts Leader
The Fall Season began at Camp DeWolfe this weekend with the first of several Service Saturdays. Volunteers from Christ Church Oyster Bay and St John’s Church joined Camp DeWolfe’s fabulous Unit Leaders Megan and Mike Tuleja, in painting the Davis Dining Hall and the Cabins! What a wonderful fresh new look for meal times for the summer camp season and the retreat season!
Also, our regular volunteer and professional carpenter Scott Evans joined us this weekend and worked on various carpentry projects across Camp! We thank God for each volunteer and dedicated staff, who give many hours of hard work and energy into this ministry!
This is YOUR camp and we are thankful for you!!
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only!” (James 1:22)