As parents of Heroes, you see every day how being a Hero has affected your child. Whether they became a Hero through our classes, camps, or events, your child has probably come to learn that being a Hero doesn’t stop after they leave our adventure. This mentality will follow them for the rest of their life, whether they realize it or not. We have seen it within many of our students and campers who have “aged out” of our programs throughout the years… Which is why we wanted to share their experiences with you. We have been interviewing past (now all-grown-up) campers on their experience at camp, and how it has changed their lives. Starting this week, we will be sharing their interviews with you, the Guard Up community, in a series titled “Life After Camp”.
Meet Jen “Polaris” Holthouse:
I was a GU Hero the first two years of overnight camp, back in 2008/2009, when I was fourteen and fifteen years old. In the intervening decade, I finished both high school and my Bachelor’s of Science, Mechanical Engineering from Michigan Tech. I worked a couple summers for a theater lighting and sound company, then Boeing, before I signed a contract with the USAF. I currently live in Florida, am in the process of moving to Okinawa, Japan, and I fly a specialized cargo and troop transport. It’s been a long road since overnight camp in Western MA, but I still enjoy many of the hobbies I had then, including ice hockey, writing and sewing.
- How long were you a camper for? How would you say you changed as a person throughout the experience?
I had two unique opportunities the two years I attended camp. The first was a submersive encounter with like-minded, off-beat peers. I had three great friends those years, one with whom I traded book lists, one who crafted even cooler costumes than I did, and one whom I spent long hours with writing and editing stories. Each of these people encouraged me, challenged me, and kept a part of me alive and vibrant even when it was pushed to the side by school, sports and other more conventional extracurriculars and timesinks. The second opportunity was to be, along with these great friends of mine and our peers, the de-facto leaders of our story those summers. We were just a little older and more invested than the younger campers, and our enthusiasm and collaboration had us at the front of every charge. It was a new way for me to be larger than life in a small, protected sense, and to push the boundaries of just how big I could be. That knowledge came in useful when I started my military training.
- How have you grown as a person since camp?
My major, ongoing effort is a continued refining of balance. My professional life requires a lot of study and long work hours. I keep up with my writing and reading, attend Renaissance Faires when I can, and play games (board/RPG/tabletop) with work and local friends. I still sew – I made a fun Cheshire Cat/Mad Hatter costume pair for Halloween this year – and I work on other craft projects in my spare time. It’s a lot to balance, particularly since my work life is rarely willing to compromise, but every project completed lightens me, so I acquire three more. I still find myself with too much to do often, but in general, I’ve found the more I can keep in my life, the happier I am. As I stated initially, it’s a work in continual progress.
- Can you think of ways your experience as a Hero at camp equipped you with skills that helped you later in life?
In addition to what I’ve already discussed in the above answers, I think that overnight camps in general, and specifically the story-based, your-actions-drive-the-plot adventure that is Wizards and Warriors, is utterly crucial in developing the critical thinking, creative problem solving and independence that has been necessary for me to transition successfully to adulthood. At camp, my actions had immediate repercussions as well as long term effects…
- What is your most memorable camp experience?
My most humorous and memorable camp experience actually occurred a couple years after I last attended camp. I had made my way to a Camp Reunion and found no one I recognized. I was met with some confusion – up until I introduced myself by my character name from several years ago. That was still recognized, by kids and adults alike! I’m not sure it would be today… but I’m not at all positive it wouldn’t be, either. Long-term repercussions, indeed. That,and it will always remind me just how powerful a good story can be.
- And finally, what advice or encouragement do you have for our current Heroes at camp, who might soon be aging out of our camper program?
For starters, it’s never aging out. It’s leveling up. Still, and this bleeds into an earlier answer, but my best advice would be to start looking for that balance as early as you can. There are necessities in life – more as we level up – but you can stay every inch as vibrant and colorful as you desire, and a lot happier for it, by continuing to pursue those responsibilities and your hobbies. Make time – and find people who will make time with you – to always continue to play.