An Interview with former camper and staff member, Lee Bolton

Lee started out at Merri-Mac as a camper in Tweedle Doe in 2002 and served as Seminole Chief in 2009. In the summers to follow, she returned to camp as a Counselor-In-Training, Junior Counselor, and Full Counselor. She is currently a junior at Furman University studying Political Science.

Q: As a camper and staff member, how did camp grow you as a leader?

A: Before I was in leadership as a camper, I was able to watch older girls display the responsibilities and importance of being a leader and experience the effect they had on me as a member of my tribe.  Before I was a tribal leader or a staff member myself, I had tribal leaders and counselors that invested in me.  When it was my turn to lead I felt it a priviledge to return the favor.

Q: What was the most challenging thing about leading peers?

A: As a camper, it was a challenge to lead campers alongside my peers. My temptation was to make all the decisions myself, when there were other tribal leaders that had a lot to offer in the decision making process.

Leading peers as a staff member, I struggled to put the betterment of the group over seeking my own approval from others. I was consistently challenged to correct others in a gracious and loving manner.

Q: What has been the most rewarding thing about your time in leadership at camp?

A: Definitely giving back to camp. As a Chief, my tribal leaders and I stressed that our tribe was a family. I really enjoyed making girls feel part of a family at camp. I was also frequently humbled by how much campers respect and admire their tribal leaders.  When I became a staff member, I recalled the depth of adoration and high esteem I held for my counselors. I am so thankful for the opportunity to invest in girls this way.

Q: Do you feel that camp has affected your college experience? If so, how?

A: For sure. Because of my camp experience, I am able to better discern situations, I have gained independence and confidence, and I have learned the power of leading by example. During my freshman year, it was evident to me that I was more comfortable being away from home than most girls in my dorm. Camp gave me confidence in making my own decisions and my ability to function on my own.  Simply put, camp creates confidence and self-confidence is invaluable during your college years.

Q: What other valuable lessons have you taken from your time at camp?

A: Being a camper and staff member taught me that it is okay to admit weakness and be wrong because we are shown grace. In fact, good leaders are able to admit their failures and learn from the experience. Admitting that you need help shows maturity.  Because of my time at camp, I have also gained the ability to be a calm leader in difficult situations. When everyone around you doesn’t know what to do, adding to the chaos isn’t helpful. Keeping a level head will be more beneficial for everyone around you.

Mary Kathryn Stewart