Camp as Our Constant

Change, change, change. It feels every stage of life brings more and more change. When I was feeling a bit overwhelmed this year with all the change around me, one of my peers offered me some (unsolicited) advice:” Change is the only constant in the world.” Although I beg to differ, I do know a place that will always be more constant than change in my life.

camp weaving girls

Exactly a year ago, I drove away from Rockbrook Camp for Girls and towards Ann Arbor, MI to start medical school. My life became busy with deadlines, schedules, exams filled with what seemed like endless memorization. To make things even more hectic, my schedule was different every week and change became my new normal. Needless to say, it’s been a busy year with so much change, and it seemed that as the year went on, I realized I didn’t take time to reflect on who I was and whom I was becoming.

When I made the choice to come back to camp this session—even just for 10 days—I wanted to make sure it was for the right reasons. I have spent so much of my year worrying about my own needs and filling my own cup that I wanted to give back to a place that gave me so much. Many of my camp friends and campers would not be present during this session, so I was nervous to come back to a place where so many of the people that made it special were no longer there. With those friends and campers that were at camp this year, I knew it would be important to avoid showing up with expectations of what I wanted my short time at camp to be. In a happy turn of events, my short time here has turned into so much more than I ever expected. When I arrived, I was expecting camp to feel different, and yet, camp hasn’t failed to bring the incredibly familiar.

knitting girls

As soon as I caught a whiff of the camp smell, it felt like I was home. It felt like for the first time in over a year, I was able to hit pause and look around. The crunching sound as we walk through the rocks at camp, the beautiful wooded mountains in the background, the chilly lake waiting for campers to jump in— how I took these simple sights for granted! In addition to these consistent sounds and scenes of beauty, I’ve realized camp brings other timeless qualities to new and old Rockbrook girls that make this place a home base for so many of us.

The best part about this familiarity is that I’m not the only one who feels it. A few days ago, I met an alumna from many years ago who described the sense of comfort that walking through camp brings her; she knew Rockbrook as the place that helped her know who she was and who she always wanted to be. So relatable! Just a few hours later, I heard the same words from some current campers on the senior line. They talked about how much they wanted to bring their camp self to their lives year-round because they knew that here they are their best selves.

zip line camp girl

How exactly do we become our best selves? While I think there are many answers, I have a hypothesis: Camp reliably brings us routine and, in that routine, so much comfort. This comfort gives us the space to be our best selves. This is a place where we build each other up and we begin to judge our successes based on the success of our community and not our own personal success. By investing in each other, we inevitably become the best version of ourselves.

How did I get so lucky? In a world that seems to never stop bringing change, it is so nice to know that we have Rockbrook to remind us of who we are. I get to have a place to come back to that will—without fail—always remind me of who I am and can be. What a gift. Thank you Rockbrook for another great summer. Thank you for all the new and old friendships. Thank you for always being more constant than change and never failing to be exactly what I needed.

—Maria Santos

camp girls together

Second Session Highlights Video

I hope you remember the fantastic short videos Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks filmed during camp last summer. We heard great feedback from parents about how much they enjoyed seeing and hearing all the action at camp. Robbie’s videos wonderfully convey the sweetness of your girls’ ordinary camp experience, so they’re a real treat to watch.

Well, we have great news because Robbie is back this summer to produce new videos for us!

He was at camp filming this past Monday and now we have his first video of the second session. It’s great fun to watch and I think you’ll really enjoy it.

1st Session Highlights Video

We’re excited to welcome again Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks throughout the summer to present a series of short highlights videos.

For two years now, Robbie has made these occasional videos by spending a day filming at Rockbrook and then presenting an edited couple of minutes. We’ve had great feedback from parents about how much they enjoy seeing all the action at camp, hearing what life here sounds like, and gaining a better sense of how happy the girls are.

Robbie filmed on Wednesday and now we have his first video of the summer. It’s great fun and I think you’ll really enjoy it.

Rockbrook in New Orleans

Inside New Orleans Camps Magazine


Have you seen the latest issue of Inside New Orleans? It’s a bi-monthly magazine published about the arts, events, interests, and people of New Orleans and its surrounding areas. Each issue is full of regular columns about fashion, music, exhibitions, and food, as well as featured articles on unique aspects of the city and culture of New Orleans, LA.

The current issue (February-March 2015), for example, has a painting by Gretchen Armbruster on its cover— a fantastic New Orleans Artist — articles about the Metairie Cemetery and the costumes of the Louisiana State Museum, but also a piece about summer camps for kids. Overall the article describes the difference between day camps, specialty camps, and sleepaway camps, mentioning several examples and promoting many of the benefits kids gain from camp.

It was fantastic to see that the author highlights Rockbrook as an example of an overnight camp, describing it as the “ideal place to explore what it means to live a ‘wholehearted’ life rich with true connections.” Wow! That’s such a nice complement! It’s something that sounds very familiar, and right in line with the philosophy and feel of Rockbrook. Thanks Inside New Orleans!

Thanks 2013 Rockbrook Girls!

Summer time happy campers

For everyone at Rockbrook, campers, counselors and full-time directors alike, today was the final day of camp in 2013. After all of these weeks together, after all the fun and excitement of the summer, it’s now time to say farewell to Rockbrook for this year.

Looking back, it’s been an amazing season. Among other things, we’ve learned who we really are, and seen how passion leads to success. We’ve witnessed the power of curiosity and wonder, and even understood a secret to being happy. We’ve truly gained a lot.

There are so many reasons why this has been an excellent summer, why Rockbrook has become such a special place for everyone (and if you’ve been reading this blog, I’m sure you can think of several), but the most important, I would say, is the people, the marvelous girls and staff members who comprised our camp community. It was their care and generosity, their enthusiasm and energy, that sparked the collective spirit infusing our days. It was the people, all those “Rockbrook Girls,” who made this summer spectacular.

So thank you! Thanks everyone! Thank you for being a part of this special place and contributing your love and imagination to its success. We will miss you, but also look forward everyday to seeing you again next summer.

Fondness and Caring

Camp Friends girls cute


At breakfast this morning, which was our last gathering of the session, Sarah stood to deliver a few last minute announcements and reminders. This is typical, but as she looked out at all the girls and their counselors this morning, she was suddenly overcome with emotion, got a little choked up, and had to pause briefly for a breath. During that moment, there wasn’t a peep from any of us, all 275 of us, because we too felt it, a strong sense that we have something very special here. We’ve forged a strong connection with each other, a fondness and caring that feels so good. It was a sweet moment showing that for everyone, not only the campers, but the counselors and directors too, Rockbrook is a wonderful, kind community. It’s a remarkable place, magical in so many ways, where we can share these great feelings of affection.

We’ve had an extraordinary session. So, thank you! Thank you for being a part of the Rockbrook community and for sharing your girls. We will miss them. We’ll all miss each other. And when next summer returns, we’ll all celebrate again.

For The Fun Of It

Searching for Tadpoles

“Non-competitive” is a word that gets a lot of use here at camp. It serves as a reminder to campers and staff alike to pursue camp activities for the joy of it—for the thrill of acquiring new skills, and embarking on new adventures—not for the sake of victory.

Rafters in the Mist

We do our best to bring this non-competitive flavor to every facet of camp life.  Every cabin gets their own unique “award” for their skits during Evening Program (“Best Break-Dancing Statue of Liberty,” and “Best Impression of a Watermelon” were some recent favorites of mine), every cabin gets a prize at the end of Counselor Hunt, and every girl even gets their own birthday cake on Birthday Night, so the fall-, winter-, and spring-babies aren’t left out.

It isn’t that we think competition is bad. On the contrary, competition can be exciting, enriching, and even wholesome in the right setting. What we do try to promote at camp, though, that might be different from the messages of schools and sports teams, is replacing the drive to win with the drive to accomplish.

Teamwork in the Lake

We encourage our campers to accomplish as much as possible in their time at camp. We offer reams of friendship-bracelet designs of increasing complexity for them to try their hands at. We coax tentative swimmers into swimming class, so they can work on their strokes with the lifeguards. We stand patiently at the bottom of the Alpine Tower, to talk nervous climbers all the way to the top. That heady sense of awe and disbelief when a camper achieves something she didn’t think she would be capable of is one of the greatest parts of the camp experience, and usually occurs in each girl at least once when she’s here.

While we encourage accomplishments like these whenever we can, we also do our best to take away the push and pressure to achieve them. We let girls work at their own pace, for example, and allow them to drop activities that don’t interest them after just three days, rather than forcing them to continue, as might happen in a school. We help them to enjoy the process as much as the result, to gain more from the experience than from the prizes at the end.

Dancing to "Grease"
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

More importantly, we also try to strip away the urge to “get there first” that can be so prevalent in the outside world. That is, we take away that need to get to the top before anyone else, and to win at the expense of everyone else, that can so dampen the fun of any activity.

A perfect demonstration of this came in our Miss RBC pageant Sunday afternoon. Each cabin spent last week crafting their very own cabin “talent” for the show, which could have been a dance, a song, a skit, or anything else they could think of. All last week, I saw cabins working during their free times, planning during meals, and scavenging costume bins around camp, all to create the perfect talent for Miss RBC.

Every camper participated, and gave their all, making it a truly spectacular show. There were elaborately choreographed dances to songs from “Mamma Mia,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” original songs about checking for lice and the joys of camp, and one wonderful skit put on by our youngest campers, acting out one of our favorite camp songs, “I’m a Little Coconut.”

Skipping

The most remarkable thing about the show, though, was the genuine enthusiasm with which each cabin cheered for all the others. Each cabin seemed thrilled simply to be able to put on their own talent for the rest of the camp, and derived just as much enjoyment from watching all the others’. There was no uneasiness when campers saw a cabin that did particularly well, and no jealousy or resentment displayed toward the cabin that ultimately won the pageant. Indeed, that cabin found themselves surrounded by well-wishers as soon as the show was finished. The winning cabin was proud, of course, that they had won, but I heard more of them complimenting the other cabins on their talents than touting their own accomplishment.

Camp, of course, is a unique environment, but I always hope that this is a lesson that our campers take with them into the outside world. That something should be created, a task achieved, or a goal accomplished, simply for the satisfaction of accomplishing it, rather than for the attendant recognition and glory.

Nothing Quite Like It

Confident Camp girls

Ending a session of camp, as we did today at Rockbrook, is a strange feeling of heartache because we have to say goodbye to all these amazing people, but also of deep satisfaction because we know we’ve shared something special over these last few weeks. As parents arrived today to pick up their girls, many saw tears and sadness for having to leave their special place, their camp, their haven filled with some of their best friends and so many fun things to do. Rockbrook is for these girls a place where they can be at peace, with themselves and with the people around them. As I hope you’ve sensed from these blog posts and the photo gallery, we stay busy, and usually pretty silly, most of the time around here, and it feels great. All of us know that there’s just nothing quite like camp. So that’s the other feeling coloring today: gratitude. We are all so thankful for simply being together in this magical place, so thankful for this remarkable community we know and love.

So thank you everyone! Thank you for sharing such wonderful girls. Thank you for supporting Rockbrook. Thank you for being a part of our camp family. We will miss your girls, but also look forward to seeing them again next summer.