When our former campers are college bound, many of them use their Vista Camps experience as the subject for their college application essays. We think that is 100% on-point, as summer camp is such a dynamic resource and influential catapult from childhood into adulthood. We receive emails and comments every year from our past campers sharing the ways that Vista Camps has molded them into the people they are today. I get goose-bumps reading their stories, because I share the exact same testimony… growing up at camp in more ways than one and learning so many valuable life lessons that you just don’t learn in the Monday through Friday school week. We are blessed by our campers (and staff) and are so proud of their accomplishments. This is one of the sweet college application essays that our amazing RPV sent over last week. Thank you Ricardo! We love you dearly and can’t wait to see you next summer!
It was a typical Sunday night at my summer camp; we were all gathered
together at the steps of the Guadalupe river awaiting the start of the Flaming Arrow
ceremony. The heat of the campfire pressed against my face. Would my name be
called? All I could think of was all the amazing people that have been part of the
Flaming Arrow’s. Lost in thought, I heard the chief call my name and order me to stand.
I froze, not believing I was to be inducted into such a selective and revered
organization. When I could finally compose myself, I proudly walked with the members,
with my friends, feeling like nothing would ever again go wrong for me. Surrounded by
others who were recognized for their leadership, respectfulness, kindness, I excitedly
got down to work helping to make Camp Rio Vista a better place.
I credit my nine summers in central Texas with forging me into a leader. A key
part of my development happened because, at Rio Vista, there are two tribes–The
Sioux and the Golden Arrows– that compete in fierce battles. One of the biggest of
these competitions is war canoe, a race held after a month of daily practice. As the
Sioux Chief, my responsibility was to ensure all ten people in the canoe, including me,
gave their maximum effort. I was also charged with making sure everyone was not only
enjoying their time at camp, but getting the most out of the experience as possible. For
weeks, as drill master, scheduler, timekeeper and motivational speaker ensured that I
return to Florida more trusted and followed.
My parents constantly tell me that every August they welcome home a brand new
son; indeed being away at summer camp teaches me life lessons I can not learn at
home. Whether it be from scheduling every moment of my day or being held
responsible with a gun, Rio Vista allowed me the freedoms–and obligations that
accompany them–that I did not have at home. Camp allowed me, for the first time, to
approach life without the aid of my family. Laundry was done by me, not mom;dance
lessons came from a counselor, not my little sister; my soccer bicycle kick had to be
perfected through constant practice, not from the advice of my older brother. Most
importantly, I learned how to respect other people’s privacy and opinion. My cozy house
of five expands over the summer to become a tight cabin of nine, conditions which
teach me how to respect boundaries and try to make the most out of people even
though we did not particularly share the same interests. I am sure my future roommate
will appreciate my experience; even if he is messy or loud I already know we will make
the most out of our situation.
Indeed, my time at Rio Vista led me to realize that to live well I have to learn how
to live with others. While my induction into Flaming Arrow and my election as Chief
helped build my confidence, two end of camp recognitions instilled in me deep humility.
One award, Honor Camper, identifies the camper who has impacted camp greatly.
Honor Camper is voted on by the counselors and approved by the camp’s owners. For
me, winning Honor Camper affirmed adults see me as a great person. A second award,
White Arrow, showed me my peer campers concurred. I am most proud of my winning
this award every summer I attended Rio Vista.
Camp ends on a Sunday every year. I see this as a sign that camp starts me on
the next chapter of my life– summer is not over; life’s beginning. As my family drives our
packed rental car through Rio Vista’s gates and onto Ingram’s rural roads, the lessons
of respect, kindness, leadership, and humility echo in my heart.