Thursday, April 9, 2009

This is for Stormy*

It's been five and half years since I had Stormy as a camper. It was the last week of summer my first year as a full-fledged counselor. Stormy was one of five girls in my cabin that week. One week out of the dozens I served on staff. But when I think about being a counselor, I think about Stormy.

She was the camper from hell. It was my worst week as a counselor. I didn't know how to handle her. Running away from the group (not a smart move in the woods). Language (I worked with the little kids where we didn't hear swear words). Violence (I don't think I'll ever forget the sight of her chasing another camper with a burning torch). Even now I shake my head thinking about it.

I can only imagine the hell she grew up in.


My mother serves on a board that offers camperships to my camp. She asked me this week about the program that sent Stormy. No hesitation. Send them. Please.


She told her contact from the program about my experience. Asked about Stormy. I wasn't surprised to hear that even for the inner-city kids the program works with, Stormy comes from a "compromised situation." Bouncing from home to home. If you call any of them a home. Brother in detention center. You know the story. We don't want to hear it, but we know it.

For five years I have hoped for the best for Stormy. I know it's unlikely. One week of camp cannot counteract the entirety of her situation. Camp should be an outlet. A chance to escape. As much as camp shaped who I am, I don't expect it to be life-changing for everyone else. Even now, reminded again of the magnitude of her drama, I pray that Stormy can find a long-term way to emerge.


And so I teach. I'm a believer in the power of education to change lives. A week at camp is a pebble in the river, but a year of school is at least a decent size rock. My students are around the age that Stormy is now. They live thousands of miles from her, but their situations aren't far removed.

I’m afraid of the times when I hear how former students are doing. I don’t want to be disappointed in them. Disappointed in me, that I wasn’t enough to launch them to some hazy vision of success. But I’m more afraid that Stormy won’t have a teacher who tries.

*Name changed. Though I did have a camper named Stormy. I hope she's blossoming into the confident young woman I saw.

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