My name is Steve Cannon and I was a counselor at Camp PALS last summer. For a class I am currently taking, I was asked to write a paper on the role of leadership in someone’s life that I knew. The first name to come to my mind was Jenni Newbury’s because of all the amazing contributions she has made to the Down syndrome community. Here’s an excerpt from my paper, reflecting on my own personal experiences as a first time counselor last summer:
As a counselor, I was blown away with the impact the week-long experience had on me. While the camp is directed towards creating a rewarding, unique, and fun experience for the campers, I feel like I may have taken as much if not more away from my experience as many of the campers. Previously, I had never been exposed to a world centered on teens with disabilities, and I had never spent much time with my peers who were disabled. The week-long emergence into this world broadened my horizons to an unprecedented level, and changed my entire perspective of the world. No longer were the mentally disabled any different than myself of any of the other counselors; we were all friends, peers, roommates, buddies, teammates, and teenagers. While I went into the camp feeling a distinct line between myself and the campers, that line quickly began to blur and then disappear as I realized how my closed-mindedness in the past was shameful. [The] creation of the camp had transformed me.