Nicolette “Nikki” Gold is one of our Assistant Girls Head Counselor, literally growing up through the ranks over the years; we are proud and lucky to have Nikki being an important part of our Towanda family; she is Gold!
Good evening and Shabbat Shalom. When I think about the last fifteen summers I’ve spent at Towanda, the word that comes to my mind is growth. I am extraordinarily grateful that I was able to spend my childhood growing up at camp, and extraordinarily grateful that my path as an adult has allowed me to do the same.
I started as a Dillie Girl in 2005, worked my way through Girls camp as a Dorm Girl and LIT, and then the journey started all over again when I was a CIT – a Dillie, once again. My 2 journeys through Girls’ Camp are seemingly identical – Dillies to Dorm, but the experiences cannot be compared.
As a camper, I learned the skills we all seamlessly learn at camp: bed making, how to share, how to solve problems, and how to not only live, but successfully function with a lot of people at one time. It is safe to say I learned more life skills as a camper at camp than I have anywhere else.
My growth as a camper is what put me in the position to start my journey as a counselor. You’ve heard it from anyone who’s made the same transition: I just wanted to give back the way my counselors did to me. The choice to stay a counselor for a lot of years was a choice I made to continue bettering myself as a person and help those around me do the same. As a counselor you learn that things don’t always happen as you plan, you have to do the best with what you have, and you now have to advocate for yourself. I’ve learned it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to not have it all together all the time.
This past June, I finished my first year as an elementary school teacher. People who know my love for camp often ask me if I decided to become a teacher so I can go back to camp forever. Although extremely believable, it’s really that the passion that goes into teaching aligns perfectly with the passion that goes into camp. The thing that held me together the most, was my underlying ability to pull camp skills out of my back pocket. When I was interviewing for jobs, I was often asked what my teaching philosophy was. My teaching philosophy is the epitome of my experience at camp: in order to be a successful teacher to anyone, you need to be learners as well. You need to be willing to pick up new skills, admit that you don’t always have the answer, and learn together. I am thankful camp put me in the position to apply this philosophy to my “real-world” life.
A common thread that holds us all together is that we are all simultaneously experiencing this growth. It’s been 15 summers of going down the dirt road with camp jitters in my stomach, because it’s been 15 summers of new experiences, new lessons, and new areas of improvement.
I’d genuinely like to thank all the people who have facilitated my growth over the years: the senior staff who watched me grow as a camper, and continue to help me grow as a staff member. The friends I’ve known since we were children, to the friends I’ve made this summer and every summer in between. And my two sets of campers, my dorm girls and LITs, I could not be more proud watching you grow the last 7 years, and I could not be more thankful for how much you have helped me become a better person. You will never truly know the impact you’ve had on my camp journey.
Campers and counselors alike – you are ALL so lucky to grow here, into kind, hardworking, and simply outstanding people. I have watched a lot of this camp family grow over the time I’ve been here. You don’t need to spend 15 summers of your life at camp to make that growth. Whenever you can, stop and just marvel at what is happening around you. Our camp journey always happens faster than we’d like it to, but whatever path you choose, just feel and internalize that we are the luckiest people in the world to grow at such a beautiful place, with the absolute most amazing people by your side. Thank you.