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What I Learned at Summer Camp

Lessons from our Y Staff

You may not realize it when you're a child, but the lessons you learn in summer camp go far beyond what is promised in a camp brochure. Take it from our very own YMCA leadership staff. With summer camp at the YMCA of San Francisco coming to an end, these former campers are using the lessons they have learned as children in their lives today.


Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

“When I was 13 years old, I went to my very first sleep-away camp. It was a horsemanship camp where I brought my horse with me and we worked for a whole week on a few specific skills I wanted to improve. In my case, it was jumping. My first day was terrifying. My horse was nervous, I was nervous, we didn't perform well. I was so upset by it, but my trainer told me something that day I will never forget. She said, "If you want to learn new things and become good at them you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable." 

At 13 years old, I didn't really understand what that meant. But as the week went on she made me sit in my uncomfortableness and then would push me a little harder. By the end of the week, my horse and I were confidently jumping obstacles I would have never had the nerve to jump. That trainer and that week at camp changed my outlook on building new skills. I learned that things are always a little tough at first, but to get good at something you have to push through the uncomfortableness, you have to sit in it and feel it and then move past it. It's something I still remember today when I am doing something new.”

Erika Kincaid, Director of Group Services | Point Bonita YMCA


Trust Your Team

"I learned the importance of trust in team work; more importantly, clear communication. I remember doing ropes courses/trust falls and having to say 'spotters are you ready' and the spotter staying, 'ready-you can fall.' Today, I understand that trust and clear communication are foundational practices of team work."

Takija Gardner, District Executive Director | YMCA of San Francisco


Be Present

“I only went to camp a few times throughout my childhood, but the memories stuck with me. I was so in awe of the camp counselors, they were so cool and present and fun and I wanted to be just like them when I grew up. Thanks to the Y, I got the opportunity to pay it forward and positively impact younger kids in camp. I hope all our staff know how important they are to their campers and to the Y movement. Since my own camp days, I try to be present and fun in my work…I’ve long given up on being cool.”

Rachel Del Monte, District Vice President | YMCA of San Francisco


Try New Things

"Growing up, my family did a significant amount of camping at national parks and in the Adirondack Mountains in NY. Despite all this, my sisters and I didn’t participate in many camp programs- it just wasn’t my parents’ experience of summer and so it wasn’t ours either- until we had friends who were going. It wasn’t until middle and high school that we tried church camps or girl scout camps, which were a chance to deepen friendships and feel a real sense of independence. My takeaway from those camps is really about trying new things - anything! The more you see and experience, the more confident you are in yourself as a life-long learner."

Lara Farrell Hitchcock, Senior Executive Director | Presidio Community YMCA & Point Bonita YMCA