Jesse Joash Reflects on his Summers at Camp Dudley
September 28, 2016
I first went to Camp Dudley after graduating from eighth grade in the summer of 2014. I was chosen to represent my school, Assumption School, which is on the island of Majuro in the Marshall Islands. I became connected to this program through an American teacher at Assumption. His name is Eric Schildge, and he’s from Cambridge, Massachusetts. We all call him Mr. Eric. His wife lived, Carleigh, lived in the Marshalls, as well, and she also has been of great help to me. Mr. Eric went to Camp Dudley himself from the time he was a kid all the way through his college years. He fell in love with Camp Dudley and also with Assumption, so he wanted to share his experience of Camp Dudley with students at Assumption. Mr. Eric asked me if I wanted to give Camp Dudley a try, and I’ve been going there for three summers in a row, with the summer of 2016 being my third. It was another awesome summer at this lovely place.
Camp Dudley is the oldest continuously operating camp in the United States of America. It started in 1885, and has grown to become a worldwide camp. Today, there is a kid from every continent who flies all the way from his homeland just to go to this camp. I happen to be one of them, even though I don’t live on one of the seven continents.
Each summer I’ve gone to Camp Dudley, I’ve traveled about 17 hours (not counting the layovers) from the Marshall Islands all the way to Boston, Massachusetts. I’ve gone from Majuro, to Honolulu, to Los Angeles, and all the way to Boston. The previous two times I made the trip alone, but last summer, I had another Micronesian traveling with me, who is also from the Marshall Islands. He’s an eighth grader now at Assumption, and he also wants to attend Xavier High School next year.
Camp Dudley is located at Westport, New York on Lake Champlain. It is a leadership development camp, and its mission is to “develop moral, personal, physical, and leadership skills in the spirit of fellowship and fun, enabling boys to lead lives characterized by devotion to others.” I was a senior camper when I first went to Camp Dudley. I was an aid (a half-camper, half employee) in 2015. This past summer, I was an official employee at Camp Dudley, so I had a leadership role. My job was to look after the kids in my cabin, and to make sure that they were safe. Being a leader helped me mature quite a bit. I also had a lot of fun, though: playing games, playing golf on Sundays, and eating good food. I also learned to become a better person by following the camp’s motto, which is, “The Other Fellow First.”
I’ve learned that being vocal is a very important leadership skill in Western culture. Coming from the Marshall Islands and attending Xavier High School in Chuuk, I know that being a leader entails putting our words into actions, but we islanders are usually rather reserved in our words. Things are different in Micronesia than they are in the States. In Micronesia, it is considered very disrespectful to look someone in the eye and talk to him or her, but in America it is considered very disrespectful to not look someone in the eye when he or she is talking to you. I learned to adapt to another culture while I was in the States. Over the last three summers, I’ve learned to “code switch” every time I go to camp and then return home to the Marshalls or to Xavier. Camp Dudley has helped me learn to adapt to different cultures, even though it wasn’t always easy. I still managed to do it, though, and I’ve learned a great deal about myself and other people, too. I’ve become more self-aware, and I’ve grown to become a better person from my experiences there. I’ve made many good friends at Camp Dudley, and I still communicate with them during the school year using social media.
Each summer, Camp Dudley fills up with very nice and friendly people. It is a place where young people can feel safe to try something new, and just to be who they are without the fear of being judged. It is a diverse and inclusive environment and everyone is welcomed regardless of his religion, sexuality, race, or anything else. There is a very positive energy flowing around Camp Dudley, and there is no such thing as a bad day at camp. Just like Xavier High School, Camp Dudley shapes and molds young people to become better citizens and leaders for their communities in the present and in the future.
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