Just a Push – A Public Speaking Essay by Camp Echo Lake Camper Jack Goldsmith

I need you to think about a great experience that ultimately changed your life. Now, thinking back on it, you had to take a risk for that experience, right? Some of the greatest experiences come out of risks. My risk, was when I was just nine years old. As a nine­ year old I didn’t know the what the world had to offer. I mean, I still don’t really.  I’m a sophomore in high school still living with my parents. But at nine, I really hadn’t had the chance to explore. My nine ­year old self was more or less alone in growing up, as I have no siblings. It was all me. No guidance. I had been spending my summer days at Ramapo Country Day Camp. I would wake up, get ready, and hop on a school bus. I would spend the day, and then go home for the night. It was fun up until I was 8, and my friends started leaving these small day camps for the big time. Sleepaway camp. Ramapo offered a “sleep week” when you slept there for a week, and got a feel for what sleepaway camp was like. “Sleep week” all together ruined my vision on summer camp. It was a horrible experience, yet I couldn’t not go to sleepaway camp. At 8 years old, I believed that by not going to sleepaway camp, my friends would think I’m weird because they all went and I stayed home. While I couldn’t have been more wrong with that assumption, I’m glad I thought that at the time. It was between the summers of 2008 and 2009, that I looked at camps. I would love to say that I looked and looked but then found the perfect camp, but this is not the case. I looked at many camps, and eventually got fed up and chose. I’m sure many of the camps I looked at were nice, but I didn’t know what I was looking for. I was nine and didn’t know what experience I wanted to have. Summer of ‘09 rolled around and it was time. I was going to Camp Echo Lake. 7 weeks, or to be exact 49 days, and not a clue what I was getting myself into. After sleep week, my expectations were not high. My best friend Austin Lazarus from NVD and I were going together. This quite obviously made me feel better about the whole situation. I remember the day so well. June 26, 2009. Quite a nice birthday present for my father, shipping his son away for seven weeks with no communication except letters, 3 phone calls the entire summer, and one visiting day. I was nervous. I drove with my parents to Sims, an old store for men’s dress clothes. No I wasn’t buying a musty old suit for camp, we utilized that parking lot as the bus stop. I got out of my car and saw giant buses with WADE TOURS printed on the sides.

Nothing like my dainty Ramapo bus. Austin and I got on. All around us people we had never seen. No mom or dad to guide us through it. It was all us. The bus rolled away as I watched my mother sob in the parking lot. I was going to camp. It took a push to go through with going. It was new, and scary. Most new things come with help from your parents. They can be there to teach you and hold your hand during the new journey. The path I took, was parentless. This upcoming summer will be my 8th summer. If I never pushed myself to get on that bus, I would have never experienced the most amazing thing of my entire life. Camp Echo Lake is dedicated to human development. I have truly become myself at this place. Echo Lake taught me that it is okay to be me. I became a better person at Echo Lake. From my first summer, where I did everything with my group, to this past summer where I went out west for 4 weeks with the most wonderful 31 people I have ever met in my entire life, camp has by far, been the best experience of my life. I wouldn’t trade my camp experience for anything. For the people that don’t go to camp, this may be hard to understand. How one place where people go to have fun could change you so much. Camp is such a laid back and comfortable environment, that it’s easy to be yourself. Having no phone might just be the best feeling in the world. You aren’t pressured to respond, you don’t have to deal with the stress of constant insta-posts. You get to be face to face with your best friends. Talk to them, listen to them. Feel what they feel and understand what they’re saying. I have always thought it was funny that such a closed environment allows you to be so open.

Camp Echo Lake has cared for me and nurtured me for 7 years of my life, and I really can’t thank them enough. If I hadn’t pushed myself and gotten on that bus, what would I be today? The growing I have done there and the friends that I have made are priceless. Camp Echo Lake is the most important place in the world to me. When I’m there, I feel so good and relaxed. It is a place that I don’t know what I would do without. Now to get to the motivation part, push yourself! Even though it’s scary, one push could really change your life. Getting on that camp bus when I was just nine years old shaped me into the person I am today. If you don’t push yourself at all, you will never move on to bigger and better things. If all it takes is just a push to change your life, I say, go for it. Thank you.