Finding My Calling at Camp

“Be the person you needed when you were younger.”
– Ayesha Siddiqi

After graduating from college this past spring with a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology, I peered into the wide open future in front of me, unsure of whether I wanted to use my newly acquired skills as a researcher or an educator. I knew I wanted to contribute to the body of scientific knowledge, but I also wanted to provide a bridge between the general public and research, since it does not do much good sitting in a filing cabinet.

In an attempt to gain some clarity on the subject, I agreed to help Bird Conservancy of the Rockies staff members with their overnight summer camps, Taking Flight and On the Wing. Apart from understanding that I was going to be a counselor, I was completely unsure of what to expect or if I even had the necessary skill set, as I had never worked with kids in an educational setting before this experience. A little apprehensive and completely terrified, I met this year’s campers for the first time and quickly discovered just how wonderful, unique and inspiring they were.


Taking Flight campers and staff pose for a group shot during their hike to Ouzel Falls in the Wild Basin of Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo by Tyler Edmondson.

The individual conversations I had with campers are what really stood out to me. Whether they were about their dreams of becoming future ornithologists at Cornell University or their fears of starting high school, I realized that the Bird Conservancy’s camps are about so much more than learning about birds or ecology. They are also about youths envisioning their futures, building plans of how they will react in situations yet to come and collecting pieces of who they are.


Volunteer Jennifer Meyers mentors On the Wing camper Rachel Dunbar as she puts the finishing touches on her research paper. Photo by Tyler Edmondson.

I read the quote at the start of my article right before I left for camp and allowed it to guide and inform my experiences during my time there. I told myself constantly to “be the person the campers need right now,” whether the moment involved something small like reminding them to wash their hands before meals or explaining how habitats change with elevation and why that matters to birds. Because these kids are the future, I remember thinking that if I could help shape just a tiny piece of these kids, replacing a little of their fear with hope, replacing some of their insecurity with confidence, then this would be my finest accomplishment. However, as a 24-year-old, I believe it was me who needed the campers, because they showed me what was really important and who I wanted to be.


Volunteer Jennifer Meyers trustingly falls into the supportive arms of Taking Flight campers and staff. Photo by Tyler Edmondson.

~ Jennifer Meyers, Summer Camp Counselor and Volunteer