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Growing Up Together

“What was I like as a kid?”

The question came from one of our youth who has been around since the beginning of my time with FOR. She was a little fifth-grade camper when I met her. It was my first year as an intern and the very beginning of my career with Youth Programs. For her, it was the summer before she was headed overseas to stay with family for a few years while her mom sought education and better work in the States. She was one that I clicked with from the beginning. I spent a lot of time that summer with her and her mom talking mostly about life in the US and how going back to the home country would be exciting, scary, challenging, and hopefully ultimately worth it.

The last day of camp that year was her last day in America and to this day I’ve never experienced such an emotional goodbye. I was sure I would never see my sweet little friend again.

over the next couple of years and I moved up in the ranks to full-time staff with Youth Programs and on a totally normal day at after school in walks one of my girls from that sweet group of fifth-graders from my first summer to inform me that our friend is back. She started back at school that morning and my two campers had been seated right next to each other in their first class. The girl who we never thought we’d see again fell right back into our laps and picked up like she never left.

When she asked me what she was like as a kid, it all came flooding back to me. I was honored that I was able to answer her question. I told her how she was an eager helper, shy at times but full of creativity. I told her how she dreamed of being a gardener and how thinking about her last day of camp that first summer still makes me tear up (even though I know she comes back). I told her how when she came back she was bolder, braver, more confident, and that I loved that I knew all of this about her. She told me how much I’ve grown up too, from an intern to the camp director. It was a sweet time to reminisce and see how far we’ve both come.

Our conversation reminded me how important it is for us to offer programs for k-12th grade, that our relationships with the youth matter, that our program is special because we grow up together, and that all the work over the years has been worth it. Our youth are loved and cared for and they know it.

Annalisa KeipertComment