February 2020 Newsletter: Staff Spotlight

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We talked with Poppy this week and here’s what she had to say:  

How many years have you worked at camp?

The summer of 2020 will be my second year working at camp!

What program area are you in?

Last year I was in performing arts and rocks and ropes. This coming year, I’ll be serving as GAD (General Activities Director) and a performing arts activity specialist!

What do you enjoy most about that program area?

I discovered theatre when I was eleven years old through my youth theatre program. The minute I performed for the first time, I fell in love with the art! I decided to make it a full time gig, and now I am studying it in school at the University of Michigan! While I still adamantly love theatre, studying it in school has made it more “serious” for me. When I’m pouring over theatrical theory or memorizing a Shakespeare monologue, it can be easy to forget the eleven year old girl in me that excitedly fell in love with the art in the first place. I think what I enjoy most about being a part of the performing arts program area is getting to see kids that have never done theatre before fall in love with it for the first time, like I did. Seeing campers branch out of their comfort zone and sing a song, play an improv game, or act in one of the movies we make here warms my heart. Even if they don’t decide to make a career out of theatre, it makes me happy that they at least got to experience what it was like to be on the stage! It’s a thrilling, special and daring activity. It’s so cool to see campers express themselves in such a brave way.

What do you enjoy the least?

When we play an improv game and sun chips are mentioned every other sentence 😉

What ages have you been a bunk counselor for?

All of them! I had campers that were eight years old, campers that were seventeen, and campers every age in between!

Which age do you enjoy the most and why?

This is a hard one— I found all the age groups fun in their own way. I liked how easy it was to relate to the high schoolers, but I also liked singing songs to my eight and nine year olds when it was time for bed. Overall though, I’d have to say I enjoyed working with the middle schoolers the most. I think because they are young enough that you don’t have to play it “cool” all the time, but old enough that they don’t have to be told fifteen times to take a shower.

What’s your favorite part about working with kids?

Kids are sooooo smart. I think that last summer I learned from them just as much as they learned from me. What I learned the most, though, was how to tap into my inner kid and have FUN. My favorite part about working with kids is bouncing off of their youthful energy. They have so much to offer this world and it’s such fun being able to receive their excitement and give some back.

What do you love most about working at Shaffer’s High Sierra Camp?

The community that is found there. Shaffer’s is a place for campers (and staff) to grow and to feel supported in doing so. I love that everyone has everyone else’s best interest at heart. The camp feels like a home away from home because of the care that campers and staff alike all have for one another. Not to mention, the beautiful location. The mountains completely stole my heart. I love the enormous environmental focus of the camp. There is such a deep rooted stoke for nature that everyone affiliated with Shaffer’s seems to share.

Do you remember your first day at staff training?

What was it like? Oh my goodness–yes. I was super nervous and a little overwhelmed by how ​cool everyone looked. I was also trying really hard to remember everyone’s name. I honestly had no idea what to expect and there was nothing that could fully prepare me for the summer I was about to have until I got to camp. Getting to know and bond with all the staff members during that first week of training was vital to my experience the rest of the summer. They are truly some of the most genuine, kind-hearted, and courageous people I’ve ever encountered. I think I will cherish the friendships I made with everyone at camp for the rest of my life. Oh also, I was really excited that it was snowing. Because, I LOVE the snow.

Do you remember your first day with campers?

What was that like?Ahhhh! I had so many nerves! I remember talking with Leafi the night before and telling her that I felt like it was my first day of school again. As much as I was nervous, I was excited. It felt like the first day of school and Christmas at the same time. We had spent the past week preparing for these kids to arrive. I was so stoked to see what all the hype was about! When the campers arrived, I thought of my own camp experiences as a kid. I thought of the traits in counselors I had that I looked up to incredibly. I tried to emulate those traits that first day of camp and for the rest of the summer. It was very helpful to have had my childhood experiences at summer camp guide me during my time at Shaffer’s.

What’s your most memorable teaching moment at camp?

I think my most memorable teaching moment was hiking the Buttes. It was earlier in the season and the hike was a bit slippier than it normally is. I noticed the kids I was with were complaining a great deal. To be honest, I was complaining in my head a little bit too. They wanted to turn back. They didn’t want to finish the climb. These complaints were making the hike more difficult. I told them that the more positive they were, the easier it would be. Instead of focusing on the bad we should talk about what’s good. What we were grateful for. We should focus on the beautiful view that is awaiting us. And how proud of ourselves we will be when we finish. When we finally reached the top and admired the peaks and valleys of the endless California mountains below, a camper approached me. He thanked me for my mini mid-hike pep talk. In lesser words, he told me that this change of perspective was what got him to the top and that he couldn’t have imagined what it would have felt like to turn around. I was quite happy that I got to teach him and the rest of the group the power of perspective. I was happy that we immediately saw the benefits of our efforts when we looked at the beautiful view we worked to achieve. This was definitely my most memorable teaching moment at camp.

Did you go to summer camp as a kid?

Yes! I went to theatre camp twice and a teambuilding camp once! Super cool experiences. Both part of the reason I wanted to spend my summer here:-)

What is your most memorable experience with a role model as a kid?

My mom. She is smart, she is empathetic, she is hardworking, but she doesn’t take herself too seriously. She has a love for life and a thirst for adventure. I hope I’m as dope as her when I’m her age. Which is going to be hard because, man, my mom is really dope.

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of being a camp counselor/working with kids?

Well, you guessed it, I really love acting. I act in one or two stage productions a semester and a ton of films (student or independent). I’m in an improv group and we always have a good time. In addition to acting in plays, I write them too! I have written three plays. Two of which have been produced! One was even selected to be a part of the Detroit Fringe Festival! I also write on the arts section for my school’s newspaper and sometimes get the opportunity to interview some pretty dope professional theatre people. Aside from acting and writing, I feel happiest when I am outside. I love hiking, kayaking, and visiting any of the Great Lakes that surround Michigan. Oh, also, music. Going to concerts. Singing as loud as I can (much to my housemates dismay). All of it. I am a big music person.

What’s one weird or interesting fact that people might not know about you?

I lived in Chicago for four months the summer before I came to Shaffer’s. During my final month there I went to see a play that Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office) was the lead in. I had to take the train there early to get student discounted tickets and on the way there, I looked to my right and Rainn Wilson himself was sitting a few feet away from me! We talked for a bit and I was ecstatic because The Office is my favorite TV show 🙂