Fridays at Eureka are for fieldtrips, and this first Friday brought us to Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park, Orange County’s version of Cedar Point. Although I was excited to ride rollercoasters and form better relationships with the girls at camp, I was already feeling worn out from the rollercoaster of a week at camp.
Monday was the first day of camp, and from running on a different time schedule to meeting so many new faces and names, the whole day was a blur. The second day was much better. We were still ironing out the kinks in our curricula, as actually facilitating them was different from writing them, but we were much more comfortable than Day 1. Day 3 was the best day of the week, as the girls were very excited about the STEM classes. Many girls had amazing and creative products for their engineering projects, and I felt so validated to see that they were so excited about something I also enjoyed. The week seemed to be following an upward trajectory; however, for some reason Day 4 was worse across the board. All of us felt that everyone’s energy was lower, and tensions ran high as some of us experienced instances of bullying in our classes. It hurt me to hear about the terrible way that some girls were treating others, and so early in camp. Quite frankly, I was surprised and frustrated that the girls who acted up were ones I had previously thought were good. It was a problem that we needed to stop early if we wanted to form strong relationships and have meaningful impacts on these girls.
The turning point in our frustration was when we finally addressed the issues in a staff meeting at Knott’s. We addressed bullying, casual racism, and bad attitude among the girls, sharing our stories from throughout the week. I think a lot of our frustration was not that we didn’t know how to handle these situations, but that when they happened we were more shocked than anything, so no action was taken. Nonetheless, we still were not very well-versed in how to manage conflict. So, as we shared and vented, tears were shed and hugs given, and we all came out with a new sense of team cohesiveness, new skills to quash issues as they arise, and a mission to intentionally make camp better for everyone.
And while I was unimpressed by the lack of berries at the supposed Knott’s Berry Farm, the rollercoasters were still great. And even though camp will continue to have its ups and downs, I will be more ready for future issues because, just like how the second time on a rollercoaster isn’t as scary as the first, I’ve already ridden it once.