My experience at Chewonki changed my life. After graduating from their semester program, I went on to join their Girls Camp leadership program and later became staff. The lessons that I learned at Chewonki will stay with me forever; more than technical wilderness skills, I learned how to listen, to create and foster community, and to lead others to their own self-discovery. All this because of the outstanding staff and programming at Chewonki.
The Chewonki Foundation changed the way I will live my life forever. I went for a semester last year and learned about the importance of finding my true self, exploring the world, how to truly enjoy learning, and it taught me so much about agriculture. The people that are a part of this Foundation have hearts bigger than anyone I have ever met. They are experts in what they teach and their goal is to truly better this world and create leaders that will make a change. I will always go back to Chewonki knowing it is my home and where I found people that cared whole heartedly about me and the things I love. A feeling like that does not come easily and requires a lot of thought and skill. This is such a wonderful foundation in every way shape and form.
No doubt Chewonki changed my life. Granted, I am one to believe that every experience you have changes your life in some way, but Chewonki changed mine in a significant and positive way. I have experienced the organization in a few different capacities: I was a semester student during my junior year of high school--a program that provides value for almost anyone, from anywhere. We worked and learned and explored in atypical ways, and I will certainly never forget those four months. I keep in touch with my classmates and teachers equally. Secondly, I participated in Chewonki's Wilderness Leadership Expedition during the summer after the Semester School. I got a taste of what is a virtually unmatched wilderness trip program for teens, and was able to learn a great deal about white water canoeing technique, as well as leadership skills and wilderness medical training. It sounds cliché but I think I'm going to say it anyway: Chewonki builds an extremely strong bond among its community, such that wherever I go, if I meet a Chewonki person, I know we will have more than enough to talk about
Chewonki changed my life, and I know it will continue to change the lives of others for decades to come.
I participated in their semester program as a junior in high school, and I've gone to visit several times since -- the organization encourages development of an authentic self, and they still remember me and treat me like family. The experience taught me to believe in the inherent value of my individuality, and to recognize my capacity to work for socially responsible changes in the world. It drove me to alter my list of colleges to apply to, switch majors, and pursue a career path I wouldn't have considered before.
My daughter was part of semester 46 and it changed her life. The opportunity to meet 40 other top students and learn to live with and for each other and our planet resulted in a wonderful self confidence that has and will serve her well for the rest of her life. Chopping the wood for their cabin wood stove, gathering eggs and milking the cow for breakfast, working on global warming issues - forming a community of caring, well educated stewards to lead their generation in finding solutions to problems my generation and prior have wrestled with is a great outcome of the Chewonki experience.
Where do I start raving about Chewonki? I was a 4 year tripper and before that went to Chewonki's old sister camp, ALC for 5 years. My experience at Chewonki started even before that. My mom worked in the offices there, and as a kid, there was nothing I would rather than run around campus with the other staff kids, playing games in the woods and sneaking popsicles from the kitchen. The 2 years that she worked there were some of the best of my childhood. I also did the vacation day camps every year, at least twice year, for probably 3 years. I remember falling into the farm's duck pond, building igloos, playing Camouflage in the woods, and assembling the skeleton of a whale. Not only was I getting incredible hands on learning experience from a young age, I also was having the time of my life. The same was true when I was on wilderness trips. I started on a trip that has since been stopped due to the founding of the Chewonki Girls Camp (which I can't say I have any experience with). It was an all girls 3 week canoeing trip. We lived in a yurt on base camp of 2 weeks, while doing day paddles, and then canoed down river for the last week. It was the perfect transition for me. After that trip, I wanted to challenge myself more, so for the next three years, I did a different type of trip every year. Sea kayaking, white water kayaking, and a hiking/canoeing combo trip were my choices. Those trips led me to some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life. My leaders were inspiring, approachable, funny and super caring on every trip. My trip mates, despite differences in social status, age, and race, all bonded together as a family. On trips, you are a part of something bigger than you realize. After a few days, you fall so easily into your new trip life that you don't realize that is making a stronger, more thoughtful, and happier version of yourself. Even when a day seems like the worst you've ever had, you'll wake up in morning knowing that you made it through and that gives a feeling that is indescribably empowering. I had my fair share of tough days on every trip. My first year, while portaging a canoe for a couple miles, me and my partner lost our grips and the canoe came tumbling down.. on my face. Though my nose has never looked quite as straight, I look back on that day and laugh about how miserable I was, because I know that it really wasn't that bad of a day after the pain stopped. My experience at Chewonki really shaped me into a better person, with a love for everything around me. Despite the fact that I haven't been able to do trips for the past two years, I still carry everything I've learned with me. Chewonki gave me a sense of motivation and personal strength that has benefited my life in every way. I hope to work there next summer as support staff at the boys camp, so that I can give back at least a fraction of the amazing guidance I received as a camper, and to be able to be surround the strongest, happiest community I have ever been a part of once again. To all parents and prospective campers that have managed to read all the way through this, I want you to know that Chewonki has a place for everyone. The best choice I ever made was going, and finding out just how life changing a summer camp can really be.
My son will attend Chewonki for his third summer this year. It has been a fabulous experience for him. He has grown from an awkward, impulsive, quirky little boy, into a helpful, compassionate, and responsible 13 year old who has the confidence to try new things, make new friends, and express his ideas. Each year his councilors and activity leaders have serve as amazing positive role models for him as he explores his developing self. He will tell anyone who is listing that he love's Chewonki. Over the past few years, he has learned to eat salad, how to manage his emotions when hiking and discovering you are NOT there yet, found his power in a paddle, and a love of Archery. We're excited to see what stories he returns with this summer!
Even two years after my semester ended, I cannot overestimate Chewonki's importance to me. I had never before been in a community that upheld and taught its values with such genuine enthusiasm, nor had I before been challenged so to support what I believe.
The months I spent living at Chewonki still rank as among the best of my life. I had no idea what to expect from the semester when I arrived. What I found was an entirely new way of thinking about the world and about my life. I was able to step outside the frantic, competitive world I was raised in, and I gained an immense new understanding of what really matters to me: community, meaningful work, natural beauty. Thanks to MCS, I've spent countless hours over the past two years working for the environment, and I plan to spend the rest of my life doing the same. But, more importantly, thanks to MCS, I've discovered how to live a better life. I'm happier, more confident, more open to new experiences. I couldn't have ever found that without MCS: without the walks in the woods, the community meals, the intense class discussions of philosophy and history alongside with lessons in gardening and woodstoves and sailing.