According to the Campers

Once again, I thought we could publish a few pieces written by the campers themselves, telling us what Rockbrook has meant to them, and what they might have learned this session. We asked a Junior, and three Seniors (writing together) to share their thoughts, and these are the results!

So Much Shaving Cream
Three Musketeers

Kate (9)–South Carolina

Rockbrook is a great place because it’s a place where girls can learn. They don’t just learn they become stronger people. When I first came to camp, I was not a really strong person. I did not make my bed, or clean much.

Then the day of camp came. From that second ’til now, I can tell all the girls and I have become stronger people and friends. I think that Rockbrook can make you meet a pal for life. I did, and we have told each other many secrets.

I also think my counselors are right about the saying “FFF” (Fierce Fabulous Females). That’s what you will become if you come to Rockbrook.

Hugs!

Rachel (14)–Virginia; Sanders (14)–Texas; Emily (14)–Georgia

When the three of us, Rachel, Sanders, and Emily, volunteered to write a snippet of the camp blog, at first we were unsure of how to put our thoughts into words. Should it be funny, formal, poetic, etc…? But, as we talked about it, it seemed to write itself:

To us, Rockbrook is waking up with a tangle of signatures strewn above your head. It’s coming back to friends you haven’t seen in a year, and feeling like you never left. It’s the deafening crunch of gravel at rest hour, and star-gazing on the Hill when you’re supposed to be asleep. It’s the nights when the sky is within your reach, and the darkness is your blanket.

Rockbrook is arguing with your counselor over the existence of a Fairy Party [editor’s note: just a dream…], and redetermining what “dry” means. It’s days in which laughter’s as constant as breath, and the cardinal’s glow stays with you all year. It’s the smile on your face when you’re singing your favorite camp song at the top of your lungs.

Rockbrook is home.

Going Old-School

The Winners!

On Sunday, our campers took part in a longtime Rockbrook tradition: Miss RBC. Judging by its name alone, you might think that Miss RBC is just a regular, run-of-the-mill beauty pageant. You might also wonder, then, why it has any place at a summer camp that doesn’t tend to glorify those things that are glorified in typical beauty pageants.

Not to worry, though—our Miss RBC is a glorification only of the most Rockbrook-y values: silliness, fun, crazy costumes, and teamwork. The “contestants” (one from each cabin) put on their craziest costumes, parade around the gym doing their funniest beauty-pageant walk, and answer questions such as “Would you rather get to school every day riding an elephant, a dragon, or a witch’s broom?” (The answer that was given to this question, incidentally, was “elephant,” though I myself would have chosen the broomstick—the relative discomfort is outweighed by the fact that it can neither step on you, nor set you on fire).

A Cappella
Question-and-Answer

Girls that, at school, might only be praised for their looks or their popularity, are celebrated here for the size of their sombrero, or for the fact that they knew that the only logical response to the question “What is something that should never be vacuumed,” was, “The fur of a medium-sized squirrel.”

Why was that the answer? Who knows. But the response was hilarious, and the whole gym applauded hard and loud for that contestant.

Still, the contestants’ question-and-answer portion is only one part of the Miss RBC process. The part that the campers (and staff) look forward to the most is definitely the talent portion. In the talent portion, entire cabins take the stage to perform something together—sometimes it is a dance, or an original song, or a skit, or anything else that they can think of. In recent years, the campers have tended to focus on elaborate dances, set to their favorite songs, which we play over the loudspeaker.

The Cup Song
CA's Talent

This session, however, we decided to throw a twist into these usual proceedings: no pre-recorded music. That’s right, we went old-school. We were a bit nervous, when we made this announcement, that it might throw the girls off and make for a less exciting talent show; as usual, however, we shouldn’t have doubted that our campers would rise to the occasion.

What unfolded Sunday afternoon, was absolutely the best Miss RBC I’ve ever seen. Cabins wrote and performed songs, sang in a cappella, performed beautiful dances while one cabinmate sang a pop song into the microphone, and one cabin even brought out pots and pans from the kitchen and performed a percussion piece. The talents were imaginative and daring, and all were incredibly impressive. We were so proud to see our campers rise to this new challenge and put on such a great show!

A Friendly Fear

Last week, there was an open spot on a zip lining trip, and, since I have the greatest job in the world, I filled it. It was the first time I had been on our new, expanded zip line course, complete with three zip lines, one tight rope, and two rope bridges. I am not ashamed a bit to admit that my heart was beating double-time the whole time I was up there.

Keeping an Eye Out

And I definitely was not alone in that sensation. Most of the girls that I was with had done the zip line before, and jumped out into thin air every time without a second thought. But hanging back in the back of the line with me was one brand new camper, whose eyes were just as wide as mine felt. She turned to me just before we got to the first zip line, and said, “I’ve never felt like this before.”

I asked her what she was feeling, and she listed out sweaty palms, dry mouth, beating heart—in short, she described fear. Here she was, far from home, standing high on a mountain, and she was feeling, for the first time in her life, fear. Now, she knew of course that she was wearing a harness, a helmet, and that she was hooked onto each line by two different tethers. She knew, intellectually, that she was safe. But that doesn’t stop the body’s natural reaction to the contemplation of jumping off a high rock face.

Suiting Up

But still, despite her fear, she jumped.

Most of our campers, thank goodness, lead relatively safe lives. They can go through whole days, weeks, and months without feeling the rush of adrenaline that comes along with fear, and this is certainly not a bad thing. Still, in our modern, comfortable world, it can be easy to forget the immense benefits of fear.

Let me clarify that by fear, I don’t mean the spine-tingling fear associated with horror movies or true danger. I mean that moment of breathlessness felt at the base of the Alpine Tower, looking up. I mean the bottom dropping out of your stomach when you’re about to go down the Nantahala Falls in a raft. I mean the way a heart can clench in nervousness when you’re stepping out of the car on Opening Day. I mean the way a tongue can tie itself up in knots when meeting new friends.

I mean the true discomfort, the adventure, of being utterly outside of your comfort zone.

Here at camp, we live outside of the comfort zone. We brush our teeth in sinks shaped like troughs, we live in cabins with screens instead of windows, we try new things each and every day that seem crazy and terrifying. We push ourselves, in a safe environment, to challenge ourselves, grow, and find new limits to our bravery.

Flying High

And yes, this can be scary. It can be terrifying. But it can also be a transformative experience. That fear can precede the moment in which a girl decides that she wants to spend the rest of her life paddling, rock climbing, or even just putting herself out there and trying new things. That fear can precede a moment of true growth.

My zip lining buddy grew that day. I knew it the moment she flung herself off onto the final zip line—the longest and fastest zip line. I heard her scream out in joy, and saw her smiling hugely as she went zooming away. She met me on the other side (after my own breathless ride), with her cheeks flushed, and her smile undiminished.

“That,” she told me, “was awesome.”

5 Steps to Being Camp Chic

The Complete Look

So you’re coming to camp on Sunday, and you want to know what to pack. The costumes are a given, of course. All the tutus, masks, wigs, and funny hats that you can cram into your trunk will be put to very good use here at camp.

But what about the everyday clothes? Maybe you have been scanning the packing list on our website, trying to determine, among the listings of “7-10 shirts/shorts,” what kind of clothes are actually considered cool at camp.

First of all, don’t worry. You could wear anything—literally, anything—at camp, and no one would bat an eye. A counselor once wore an astronaut helmet for the entirety of dinner, and I never once thought to ask why. The more typical question asked at camp when it comes to fashion is, “Why not?”

Water Bottles: The Vital Accessory

At a girls camp like Rockbrook, the fashion rules of the outside world don’t apply. Makeup is only used for clown costumes and such, hair straighteners and curling irons are useless at best in the heat and humidity, and high heels can only ever end in sprained ankles on the gravel roads.

Here, the rules are rewritten to fit our environment—pretty clothes are replaced with functional ones, carefully styled hair is replaced with crazier styles, and traditional jewelry is replaced with colorful, homemade creations that express personality instead of expense. Camp fashion standards leave more room for creativity and originality, and allow campers and counselors to express exactly who they are and look so cool doing it.

Every summer at Rockbrook has its own styles and trends. Sarah Carter told me today about when she was a counselor in the eighties, and everyone wore oversize t-shirts and men’s boxers as shorts. When I was a counselor, it was all about tank tops and bandanas-as-headbands.

So what are the trends this summer? I talked to a ton of counselors and campers today (several of whom you’ll see in pictures) to find out the big ones.

Chacos and Socks

SHOES
Shoes at camp are all about comfort and functionality. Most people wear Chacos, Tevas, or Keens–though one counselor asked me to point out that Crocs, if worn with the right amount of confidence, are still cool. It’s always a good idea to jazz Chacos up a bit with some colorful socks, too, just to keep things interesting. For extra points, make sure to wear your Chacos enough that you can show off a beautiful Chaco tan-line.

Double Dye
Home Made

SHIRTS
Some of the coolest clothes at camp are the ones that you make right here at Rockbrook. Once you make yourself the perfect multi-colored tie-dye, the only logical thing to do is to show it off as much as possible. Also, see if you can convince your counselor to let you make cabin shirts for Cabin Day. A white t-shirt+puffy paint=quality camp fashion. Odds are very good that you’ll go home with a very cool shirt after your session at RBC!

HAIR
Hair trends often take some interesting twists and turns (often literally) at Rockbrook. Through my years here, I have seen Afro wigs, Mohawks (usually for the dances), Kool-Aid tips, and more. This year, the trends have mainly centered around crazy pigtails and cornrows. Braids are always cool at camp–the more complicated the better. But the cornrow trends (and particularly the half-heads of cornrows that I’ve seen wandering around camp, have really taken this to a new level.

Cornrows
Pigtails

ACCESSORIES
As I mentioned earlier, accessories tend to be made here at camp, not bought. Campers often don’t consider their camp session complete until they have wrists full of friendship bracelets, survival bracelets, and paddling achievement bracelets. But the accessorizing doesn’t stop there. Campers love to show off their camp-made duct tape headbands, wallets, picture frames, and more. They can knit themselves hats in Needlecraft, and weave themselves headbands in Curosty. Rare is the camper who goes home without at least one of these stylish creations.

Full Wrists
Headband

THE FLASH-TAT

Flash Tats

This year, the wildcard trend that none of us saw coming was the Flash Tat. These are basically temporary tattoos with a metallic sheen that work way better than regular make-up at making a girl’s face look unique and interesting. In fact, an entire cabin covered their faces with Flash Tats for their Miss RBC dance, and they all looked so incredible!

These are all of the trends that have come to my attention so far this summer, but if you have noticed others in the pictures, or during your camp session, feel free to comment and share!

As Though All the World Saw Us

Speaking on Integrity

On Sunday, the Juniors put on a beautiful Chapel for all of camp, on the theme “Integrity.” Though I shouldn’t have been, based on the campers that I have the pleasure of getting to know each summer, I was surprised by how firm a grasp many of these girls had on a concept that can best be described as, “You know it when you see it.”

Oftentimes, in thinking of integrity and in striving for it, I find myself mired in complexity. Integrity, after all, is composed of a hundred different qualities that are, in themselves often difficult to achieve. Honesty, industriousness, moral fortitude, and trustworthiness are all components—but which are the most important, and which can I fail to achieve from time to time without losing my integrity?

As I so often realize in my job, even the most daunting and complicated of topics can be made simple by the solid logic of a child. Integrity, as was expressed many times throughout Chapel, is achieved when you “do the right thing, even when no one is watching.”

Singing for the Camp
Pondering...

One after another, campers explained that this is the standard that they set for themselves: not only to do the right thing, but also to do it for the right reasons. To clean up the dinner table for the cabin-mate who forgot, and keep it to themselves. To pick up the trash strewn around the over-full trashcan in the empty lodge. To take just one muffin during muffin break, even though the Hi Ups’ backs are turned and they could easily take two. To do all of this without asking for praise or recognition—to do it only because it is the right thing to do.

The Juniors were also quick to acknowledge that it is impossible to live up to these standards at all times. A significant part of integrity, to them, is falling short of these goals and owning up to it afterwards. The example that stuck with me was a camper who took a nice pen from the lost and found at school, then returned it a day later. Nobody would have known that the pen had been taken or who took it, but still she returned it so that it might still have the chance of being reclaimed by its owner.

I like to think that camp is the perfect environment in which to develop integrity. This kind of close community living helps campers to feel accountable to their peers and to the camp as a whole—they learn quickly that if they are not behaving well, then their actions will have repercussions that affect many others. Likewise, good deeds tend to be recognized and appreciated more often here than in the real world. Even if campers are not behaving well specifically for attention, that attention still might find them, and teach them one of the many rewards of integrity.

Speaking on Integrity 2

Sarah pointed out at the very end of chapel that, built into the routine of camp, is a daily reminder of all that having integrity entails. Every night before bed, campers of all ages recite the Rockbrook Prayer. Conceived ninety-four years ago as a Christian prayer, and changed in later years to reflect the disparate religious beliefs of our many campers, the prayer is essentially a challenge to every camper to be a better person tomorrow than she was today. In it is outlined the behaviors and qualities that give a person integrity, even though it doesn’t say so outright. Countless alumnae have told us that this prayer has stayed with them throughout their lives, and that various lines will come floating up out of their memories in moments when they need reminding of the sorts of women that Rockbrook has helped them to become.

Building Leaders

Teaching the Basics

At Rockbrook, our primary focus is always to give childen the time of their lives in a fun, crazy, safe, and exciting environment. Our objective is to give girls the chance to let loose and get a little crazy, and create memories that will last them well into adulthood.

Full Costume
Steady…..

We do have another objective, though—one that is woven into much of our programming, often in subtle ways, but at times more explicitly. We know that the girls playing in our camp today will not be children forever. There will come a time when these girls will be populating boardrooms, operating rooms, courtrooms, art studios, sports arenas, Houses of Congress, and maybe even the White House. Much of what we do here is geared toward helping them to become the strong, positive leaders that they will need to be in the years to come.

Though, officially, our leadership program does not begin until the summer after ninth grade, we encourage all of our campers to be independent thinkers from the moment they step onto camp on their very first day. One of the most important ways that we foster this independence is by allowing our campers to choose their own activities every three days. No counselors, no directors, and no parents can tell them which activities to choose—only the campers, be they seven or fifteen, can make that decision. We urge them to choose activities based not on what their friends are choosing, but rather on what they are interested in, what they are excited about, and what activities might challenge them. Through this process, campers can learn the immense satisfaction that comes from crafting an experience that is wholly and completely their own.

Never Too Small
Working Hard

What’s more, our campers put together and perform skits nearly every night with their cabins. Returning campers look forward to these skits every summer—they are fun, goofy, and often hilarious ways to top off the day. Planning the skits, though, is not without its challenges. Skit-planning requires girls to think creatively, to determine how every girl in the cabin can contribute to the performance, to pool their resources (usually costumes) and use them in a way that benefits everyone, and to make sure that everyone is on board and happy with the process.

On top of all of that, the girls aren’t planning the skits under the direction of a counselor. The counselors wait in the lodge, and leave the planning, from beginning to end, to the girls. Throughout the session, the campers get plenty of practice in learning to solve disagreements in mature ways that benefit the cabin as a whole, without the interference of an adult. To help this process along, particularly for the younger girls, campers might be assigned days to be the “skit director.” On this night, they are the leader of the skit-planning, and it is up to them to make the tough decisions and make sure that every girl’s voice is being heard.

Yes, it can sometimes be messy—as learning new skills frequently is—but our campers often leave here at the end of the session with a better understanding of how to be a great leader of a team, and, sometimes more importantly, how to be a productive member of a team.

When campers reach 9th and 10th grade, they begin to take on more responsibilities around camp. They shoulder the responsibility of planning an elaborate Banquet as CA’s, then take on the myriad duties of a Hi-Up, many of which are vital to the smooth running of camp. Some girls are always nervous to take on this leadership role at camp. What they might not realize, is that they have been preparing to be leaders, at camp and elsewhere, since the moment their parents dropped them off on their very first day.

HUP Pals

Becoming Someone New

Deep Breath...

On this first day of activities—the first full day of camp—I am reminded that camp is more than just a chance to retreat from the rigors of the “real world,” to have some mindless fun and excitement, and to make new friends and reconnect with old ones. Camp is a place in which children can become someone new every single day.

Downward Dog

Most of the 207 girls assembled here at Rockbrook this session wear some pretty standard labels for most of the year: student, daughter, sister, class president, team captain, honor roll student, and the like. They will belong to categories like these for a while, before growing up, and gaining some more exciting ones like lawyer, doctor, engineer.

This, of course, is all in the normal course of events.

Kayak Race!

What camp does, is give girls a chance to don a whole host of other identities that most people never get to try. In just one day, I have seen the school-girls who were dropped off here yesterday morph into markswomen, mountain climbers, equestrians, basket-weavers, yogis, archers, and more.

Spider-Man Drop

I heard them swapping stories at lunch and during free swims. Giving each other tips on which side of the Alpine Tower makes for the best climb, as though they have been climbing for their whole lives and not just one morning. Boasting cheerfully about getting their wet-exits in kayaking on the very first day. Showing their cabin-mates the first steps of the dance that they will be premiering in the dance show at the end of the session.

Soaking the Reeds

A Junior spent about five minutes this afternoon, explaining to me exactly how long the reeds needed to soak in the stream before they would be pliable enough to make a basket. She had never made a basket before. She was repeating to me what she had heard the instructor say just minutes before. But, in her mind, she was an expert, a basket-weaving professional, when an hour before she had been nothing of the kind.

Perfect Form

Every day, every hour, almost, these campers get to try something new, become something different, and expand a little more. By the end of the session, they might decide that they never again want to be an archer, or a climber, or a basket-weaver—but the hope is that, through all of this experimenting, they will leave here with a bit more of the confidence that it takes to become the varied and interesting women that they will one day grow to be.

A Simple Costume

A Camper’s Perspective

On this blog, you read a lot about camp from the perspective of the staff. We try to bring you our observations, a bit about our camp philosophy and some tidbits about how we spend our days at camp. But today, we wanted to try something a little different. We asked three of our Middler campers to reflect on some of their favorite moments from camp. These three submissions sum up everything that there is to say about the anticipation, the wonder, and the excitement of camp better than this grown-up ever could. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!

ANNIE–ATLANTA, GA

Annie

“First Sight.”

I am ready to burst out of the car. We have been on the road for three hours and the GPS says ten miles to go. On a curvy road. Up a mountain. I try to swallow my impatience.

Looking out the window in boredom, I see…

“Rockbrook, Mom, stop the car! Rockbrook!”

We turn down the driveway.

“Annie, How are you feeling?”

I close my eyes. “Spectacular,” I lie. In reality, I am so nervous, I’m ready to run the 100-something miles home.

I take a breath and open my eyes. When I do, I catch my breath. I see a small waterfall in a crystal-clear stream, surrounded by mossy rocks. I see a beautiful forest where maples and oaks play hide-and-seek between the pines. The sunlight filters through the trees in a magical way. It makes everything look like it’s glowing and sparkling.

“Wow,” I murmur. The sight calms me. In that one moment, I know this will be an experience I will never forget.

ELLA–BREVARD, NC

Ella

Hi, I’m Ella. When they first told me to write about my most exciting, or my favorite, camp memory for the camp blog, I just couldn’t decide. So I thought about it some more, and I thought and I thought there were so many to choose from, and I couldn’t choose just one!

So, pondering on about what I should write, I realized that I had already found my topic: camp. Camp was my topic! If you are able to choose just one camp memory, then you need to make some more, and where else to make them than camp?

I realized that it was my seventh year here, so that has to count or something, right? But I am not going to start from today, I am going to start where it all began: seven years ago, on the first day of camp.

Now, don’t worry and keep reading, this is not going to be a long story about my whole life! So, just sit down and relax. It all started seven years ago on June 4th, 2008. I was five-years-old, and I had never been to a sleep-away camp before, so you could imagine how scared I was!

Now, take a look at me this year; I’m seven years older, I’ve gone here longer, I’ve made friends, and from now on I know that I will never leave Rockbrook Camp, for I love it too much!

ANNE–RALEIGH, NC

Anne

Hey! My name is Anne. This year (2015) is my seventh year here at RBC. And I am here to tell you about my favorite moment at camp.

When I first thought of it, I figured, “Oh, this will be easy–there are so many great things about camp!”

But, when I thought about it again, I realized just how hard this would be, because there are so many great things about camp!

After thinking about it for a while, I found that my favorite moment at camp is the first day. That is the day where I can be reunited with old friends, and meet new ones. I think about that day all year long. Rockbrook is a second home. The whole session is amazing. If I could remember everything that has happened in all seven years, then I would. But I can’t, I can only remember some things.

One of those things is the first day of camp. That is my favorite day of the whole session. Driving up, seeing Hi-Ups, talking to Sofie and Chase as they announce your name, hearing the counselors go crazy seeing you, and greeting new and old friends.

That’s why I love the first day. Everything is positive. I feel as though nothing can be bad or wrong on the first day. I love everything at camp, but the first day always stands out.