“This [ISTC] is the place I can be me, and I can be the best version of myself.” This is a common sentiment that we hear from campers (and staff!) every summer at ISTC. They love that they are more outgoing, fun, and fearless at 1100 Twin Lake Road than when they are in the “real world”. But what makes ISTC so different? What is it about this place that makes people morph into this awesome super-version of themselves? It comes down to the room for growth, positive support system, and role models that ISTC provides for each and every camper that walks through our gates!
One facet of ISTC that might not be present in other parts of a child’s life are all the ways they can jump outside of their comfort zones. We offer activities like mountain biking, rock climbing, ziplining, jetskiing, banana boating and blobbing (just to name a few!) that challenge campers to try something they have never tried before, and that might seem a little bit scary. The staff members at ISTC are great at pushing children to do just enough to test their boundaries and help build confidence by facing their fears. Everyone is encouraged to do the things that scare them – especially the things that scare them – because camp is all about growth and having new experiences. The look on a camper’s face after they’ve gotten up the courage and made it to the top of the Rock Block is like nothing else! You can see the light in their eyes and how great they feel about themselves for tackling a fear and overcoming it.
“I’ve never been so confident and so aware of the type of person I am until I came to this place” – Christine, camper-turned-counselor.
But that pride in climbing up the Rock Block is something that people outside of camp might not understand. Being at ISTC is an experience that campers can never really explain to their friends and family. You just have to be here to understand it. Being surrounded by people who know exactly how amazing it feels to win Cabin of the Week or how awesome it is to execute the perfect cheer at a rec event makes kids feel accepted and like they’re a part of something bigger. Feeling that unity as a cabin, as a team, and as a camp makes kids see they’re a part of something magical. And that’s a feeling that can only be experienced within the ISTC gates.
Part of that magic comes from the atmosphere of unconditional positive support that runs rampant at ISTC! Everyone from the counselors and coaches to kitchen team and maintenance crew is taught about ISTC’s vision during orientation that the kids come first. Mark gives a speech kind-of-like-this-but-better that stresses that although there are many aspects that make up ISTC, the kids have to “go in the jar first” for it all to work. And not only do campers come first, but they are constantly supported. If they’re going to be stepping outside of their comfort zones, our staff know they need to be there for them, whether they succeed or not. They teach campers that difference is celebrated and encourage everyone to be themselves. And they make sure campers know that that self will be accepted, whoever it may be. When kids know that their counselors will be there for them no matter what they do or how wacky and weird they act, it frees them to let go of any inhibitions and just go for it!
The staff at ISTC are so instrumental in helping kids become this super version of themselves by leading by example. Every staff member at ISTC loves working with kids, but they also have big, bubbly, silly personalities and encourage kids to do the same. When you have coaches and counselors who make wearing wigs and face paint look cool, how can campers not follow suit? ISTC is an environment where being different is respected and appreciated, and the more “out there”, the better! No one takes himself or herself too seriously at ISTC, we’re all about fun and living in the moment. We like to instill a feeling of having no regrets in our staff so they walk away from their summers knowing they did everything they wanted to do, and the staff passes this on to the kids. After all, the more you put in (like dressing up like Georgia bulldogs for a College Week Dance), the more you will get out of the experience!
If you create an environment where there is room for trying new things and celebrating uniqueness, and no room for fear or reservations, kids are bound to shine! We work to create this atmosphere every day at ISTC. Our staff and programs are the backbone to building what has been called “massive, huge, awesome bubble of awesomeness” where kids are 100% free to be their crazy, zany selves.