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Bridging CRL Traditions For Our Next Century

As Camp Riva Lake Board President and a camper from the late 70’s and early 80’s, I often ponder the question of how do we keep our traditions and also transition into a camp that is relevant for a new generation of campers. We must challenge ourselves to find the balance.

In some ways, I think we were ahead of the times back “in the day.” We were pushed to try new things. Personally, I would never have chosen to go to the barn. I would have stayed on the courts, field, and in the water. However, if I had done that, my team would not have garnered points I earned from Horseback Riding. So to the barn I went. At camp, I discovered that I’m a natural leader, and I was given opportunities to develop leadership skills. Skills that have given me strength in everything that I have achieved since then.

One of my favorite parts of camp was meeting so many different people. I grew up in a small town in Mississippi and was pretty sheltered. I know my eyes were big and wide listening to tales from the girls from New Orleans! In some ways, they lived in a world foreign to me. And some other girls were from very rural areas, even more rural than my town in the Mississippi Delta. I was fascinated to be introduced to so many new faces from cities and towns that I had never been to.

Now, we have a whole new generation of campers, and we are striving to open eyes and provide enriching opportunities for them. As a board and staff, we are actively educating ourselves through the ACA (American Camping Association). In a recent conference, there was a series on “True Gen: Generation

Z.” In this series, I learned that Generation Z is defined as a generation that feels comfortable not having only one way to be itself. Its search for authenticity generates greater freedom of expression and greater openness to understanding of different kinds of people. For Gen Zer’s, the key point is not to define themselves through only one stereotype but rather for individuals to experiment with different ways of being themselves and to shape their individual identities over time. In this respect you might call them “identity nomads.”

At CRL, we want to embrace this generation and help shape these girls. We want to teach them and also, we want to learn from them. While we keep many of our traditions, such as no technology and face to face friendships, we also want to adapt to and embrace our current times. While our camper base is still the south, we now have campers from all over the United States and also a few from other countries.

Today’s campers represent many races, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds.

As a camp, we must continue to challenge our campers and ourselves. We must live out the words of our beloved former Director Milbrey Black’s favorite poem and “be the best of whatever you are."


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