How Camp Has Shaped My life

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When I first showed up to camp, I was a shy eight year old with no idea what I was getting myself into. As my parents and I finished folding the sheets on my top bunk in Cypress Bend and started saying our goodbyes, I was terrified to death, wondering if the hours spent begging my parents to send me to Vista with my brother were worth it. Now, almost twelve years later, I don’t know where I’d be if we’d never pulled up to camp that summer.

Growing up, my time spent at Sierra Vista was always the best weeks of my year. For two weeks every summer, I got to escape the mundane routines of my daily life and instead bask under the Kerrville sun, swim in the Guadalupe, and have the freedom to just be a kid. I dealt uno cards, shared snuck-in snacks, and told scary stories to bond with the girls in my cabin - girls who are still some of my best friends today. I sprinted during steal the bacon, smiled until my cheeks ached during sing-yell, and pulled as much water as I possibly could in war canoe to earn points for my tribe, a tribe where I learned the meaning of sisterhood and the true value of teamwork. As I got older, I had the honor of serving officer positions for the Chickasaws and the Starguiders, eventually working up to Chieftain, where I learned how to be a selfless leader and a support system for those around me. During my years at camp, the warm welcome and the love I always received - from my tribe, my peers, the staff - let me be comfortable with who I was, and reminded me that, no matter how lonely things got during the year, I always had a community and a place at Vista.

As a camper, I thought my experience was perfect, that it couldn’t possibly go up from there. However, after those nine years came and went, and my Gaziger year was done and gone, I hadn’t yet had enough of Vista, and I was blessed to be welcomed back to join staff. I have been a counselor for the past two years, and it is one of my favorite things I get to do. Being a part of the experience for the campers - campers I was not that long ago - reminds me just how precious those few weeks at Vista are. This past summer, as we successfully did camp during the pandemic, we were constantly being pat on the back for being able to make the summer memorable for the kids. However, this summer, the kids taught me so much more than I could ever have taught them. These campers experienced a summer so different than the one they were expecting, but still embraced it with such open arms. They brought light to a rough year, encouraged me to embrace the small joys in life, and reminded me that, even in the most stressful times, love, laughter, and joy is still so dominant.

Sierra Vista is such a beautiful place. At Sierra Vista, I’ve grown into who I am. I’ve been embraced with open arms, I’ve met my best friends in the entire world, and I’ve learned lessons and skills I’ll carry with me throughout a lifetime. Luckily, the book of my story at Vista isn’t quite finished yet, and I can’t wait to see the Guadalupe again in 2021.

Ari Hosek