Heather Returns to Camp What If!

Heather was a camper during TomTod’s first ever year of camp (then known as Dreamoratory)! She was back this year as a counselor for Camp What If and reflected on that week with us. Read on for a guest post by Camp What If alum, Heather Guiley!

Heather back in 2013 dreaming up ideas!

Camp What If and TomTod Ideas is continuously evolving to encourage middle schoolers to “explore and launch ideas that put empathy and imagination into action.” When TomTod summer camp was first spoken into existence, it was called the Canton Dreamoratory where the focus was for middle schoolers to observe Canton, determine its assets and challenges, and then create ideas to improve the city.

It was a special experience for me to be a part of camp this year since I was involved in the very first “Canton Dreamoratory” and saw much of my middle school self in the campers. As a camp counselor, I enjoyed learning alongside the students as well as from them. I applied knowledge from my maturity and used perspectives from my own experiences to help the campers break out of the restrictive mindset we so easily fall into and encouraged the nutty and inventive ideas to flow.

When dealing with the absurdness and energy middle schoolers bring with them, it can be easy to undertake the role of the rigid adult in need of some order. Thankfully my experience as a former camper showed me that it’s much easier to let the creative juices flow when you are not only allowed, but encouraged, to express every bit of yourself and the craziness that comes with it.

Far too many times in my adolescence I found myself hiding in the shadows, fearful of embarrassment. I can remember times when I thought I had the answer to the question or a solution to a problem but was too shy to share it – and before I knew it someone else had spoken out and received praise for the same or similar idea.

This was not the experience I wanted these students to have, so I searched my mind to remember how the counselors I loved had helped me to grow and shine in my week as a camper and applied that same energy and thoughtfulness as I guided the middle schoolers through their time at Camp What If. I hope that by doing so I created a unique atmosphere for the students to explore Canton (and themselves) so their extraordinary ideas could be recognized.

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