Cam Vilain

October 17, 2014

"Bad Kids" Do Not Exist: My Experience Empowering At-Risk Children

Where do the "problematic" kids, who cannot fit into a typical overnight camp setting, go during the summer? I worked as a summer counselor at a therapeutic summer camp in Brewster, Massachusetts, designed to fit the needs of these sorts of children: those who experience behavioral and emotional problems. The nature of the work made this summer the most challenging one of my life, but also the most fulfilling.  
Camp Mitton, an overnight camp affiliated with the Boston-based non-profit youth empowerment organization Crossroads for Kids, is designed for at-risk children who are experiencing "crisis" situations--situations such as living in dangerous inner city neighborhoods, living in abusive households, previous sexual violence trauma, extreme financial instability, homelessness, foster-care, a recent death of a loved one, or family members with substance abuse problems. Due to these circumstances, many campers battled inner demons like very low self esteem, or feelings of inferiority, and thus acted out frequently. 
In my presentation, I will illustrate that, as a counselor at Camp Mitton, my eyes were opened up to the serious struggles that are very real in the lives of some children. I will discuss that while a child's whole world can be changed drastically by negative circumstances, a troubled child's life may likewise be changed by the right positive circumstances... such as a wonderful summer camp experience. Although my patience and my peace of mind were put to the test every day though the task of peacefully managing destructive behavior, and patiently guiding campers through their emotional outbursts, I learned a universal truth; All children, regardless of who they are, are capable of shining success, when treated with patience, and are given love, respect, and the confidence to achieve their dreams.