A message from Michael Tessier, former youth services manager and camp director:
Hey, everyone. I wanted to give you an opportunity to learn about camp straight from the mouths of our biggest participants. What follows is an interview I conducted — with an adoptee on camp leadership staff — that will hopefully help you learn more about the program.
Tracy: Well, my name is Tracy, and I grew up in Sharon, Massachusetts — a small suburban town with only 3-4 other Asian Americans in my school. I have a younger brother who is also adopted, Robbie. I am currently acting, and lived in LA after college. I am now living in Atlanta with my husband, and pursuing my acting career here.
M: Awesome! And you volunteered with camp this summer, too! What was your position and what did you do?
T: It was my first time at Holt camp! I originally applied to be a counselor, but then I became leadership [staff managing the counselors]. Being around that many adoptees was amazing — it was an amazing time in my life. As leadership, we were in charge of training and supervising the counselors. We helped design the overall curriculum of the camps and helped find new ways to support camper identity. I found myself being a counselor, mentor and sister to the campers and counselors. I will remember the experience for the rest of my life. It has profoundly changed the person I am. It has given me strength and foundation.
M: That’s really cool. What did you think of the experience?
T: It was my first time with other adoptees, so it was overwhelming and life-changing. It made me feel like I was a part of a community — a community I had no idea existed up until that point.
M: What do you think the campers enjoyed the most? What did the counselors enjoy?
T: I think the campers just loved being in a fun environment where they felt safe and loved. They were a part of a community that made them feel like they could be themselves, some for the first time. They could relax and look around, and see so many others who could understand what they were feeling — a bond unlike any other in their lives.
[Feeling like] a mentor to younger adoptees was a common feeling among counselors, who used their own life experiences to support campers. The counselors also found new friendships among the other counselors. I saw a lot of love among the counselors and great friendships being made, which, in turn, extended to the campers.
M: Would you recommend camp to young adoptees? Why or why not?
T: Of course I would recommend camp to young adoptees. I only wish I knew about these camps when I was younger! It is an invaluable experience! Even if campers don’t want to talk about identity, racism or adoption [one component of camp], they can be around others who they can relate to.M: Lastly, any words of wisdom you’d like to impart to your young adoptee readers regarding adoption or camp?
T: Working with Holt this past summer has given me a family. I walked away with sisters, brothers and best friends, who will be a part of my life forever. I felt safe and loved around people that could relate to me. It’s indescribable, having this environment where you feel relaxed, comfortable, and supported. I don’t know what it is about these camps — and the time we share with other adoptees — that bonds us in a way I’ve never experienced before. I can only hope that every adoptee gets to experience these camps.
Just know that you are not alone! You are unique, beautiful and amazing. And there’s a community out there just waiting to embrace you. We are only a phone call, text, FB message away!
For more information on Holt adoptee camp, contact Michael Tessier at firstname.lastname@example.org