My Fourth of July, although perfect, was unlike the common American’s. I watched a fireworks show light up the sky from a Virginia summer camp.
I traveled from my home in Wisconsin to my aunt and uncle’s home in Chicago to spend the night and prepare for the following month that I spent working at a Christian summer camp.
On July 4th, my relatives hugged me and dropped me off at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. I headed towards my gate and sat with anticipation, later boarding a flight to Roanoke, Virginia.
The Virginia airport made Memphis International Airport seem gigantic. I soon saw a few kids wearing Young Life T-shirts and went to join them.
The seven of us stood together decked out in Young Life gear, searching for someone to offer direction. In those moments of uncertainty, I made my first friends. We shared our names and hometowns. I was the only college student.
A friendly old man wearing his own Young Life T-shirt interrupted our conversation. We loaded our bags into the trunk and drove to Rockbridge Summer Camp.
More than an hour later, we turned off the highway onto a gravel road. Kicking gravel up behind us, our car came to a stop, and the camp was now in sight. Our driver turned into the first building on the right, and we ran into the main office.
“Hello. Summer staff to the left, and work crew to the left,” said a man pulling T-shirts from boxes.
I made my way to the left and saw the list of cabins. Without knowing anyone, I chose the cabin that was almost filled to capacity.
Arriving at the cabin, I threw my backpack over my back and scooped up my huge duffle bag. I climbed the stairs and dragged the bag behind me. Then, I saw an open bed and threw my backpack on it.
A blonde came up the bottom of the bunk bed and smiled.
“Hi. I’m Briana. . . I’m a horse wrangler for the month. Whats your job,” she asked. I would be leading crafting activities.
The room was a mess with 15 or more girls. Clothes from half of their closets spilled across the room. We talked for a while, and eventually headed up the hill outside of our cabin to the dining hall.
Our first meal was chaos. The buffet table was full of food. Half way through the meal, a group of people stood up and introduced themselves.
Summer staff is a wing of volunteers at Young Life Summer Camps. Young Life is Christian organization for high school students across the nation and in some other countries. Students attend the summer camps for a week of fun and God.
Summer staff is the college-age volunteer group – similar to the work crew students, who are high school student volunteers. The main difference is the jobs we perform for the month. The summer staff members have slightly more responsibility.
The craft shack girls, me and Ashley, worked closely with store girls, Katie and Anna, learning our daily and weekly duties.
There was a dinner and a fireworks show the first day. The Fourth of July had never felt like this before.
The month ahead required a lot of challenging volunteer work with four different camps. Each week, a new group of campers arrived. The days were long.
As I spent my month alongside other college students similar to me, I gained many friends. Together, we were able to show high school students an amazing week and God in ways they could understand.
I grew as a person throughout the month and am forever blessed to have had such an amazing opportunity handed to me.