We asked alumni of North Carolina Camps to share how their camp experience has shaped their life and career

Alumni: Matthew Kalajain CFA

Camp: Camp Rockmont for Boys

  1. Share your camp story and how it impacted you from an early age.

As a youth I first went to Summer camp reluctantly, but then didn’t want to leave. There was an exhilaration from the combination of leaving home for more than a “sleepover”, meeting all the new friends and mentors, and having fun in the outdoors. 

Summer Camp taught me to trust new experiences and look for ways to find common ground with others through fun activities. 

I specifically remember my counselor being an important leadership figure. This was someone that was younger than my parents, but had responsibility and showed me leadership, both in teachings and interactions. 

Summer camp always felt like a home away from home once I got over my initial butterflies. Finding “camp” moments during the rest of the school year was always in the back of my mind and in a lot of ways was probably a good chunk of my life where I felt centered. Specifically, it combined having fun with friends outdoors with a group that made me embrace my faith and put all the things I learned in church into a context where I felt I could take ownership of my faith with the support of others. 

And I learned a ton of fun camp games, slang, jokes, activities…….that I could share with others and continue to weave into my life. 

Camp allowed me as a child to find a version of myself by being safely out of my comfort zone, in a place that embraced me, entertained me, and helped build a foundation under me.

2. What skills and values from your camp experience have been most influential in your life as an adult?

After my second year of being a staffer at camp, I was questioning if I should have instead tried to land an internship somewhere that would help my career post college. Other people in my major were spending the Summer getting “experience” as interns, and I was painting my face for games in the woods. Now that I am 20+ years into my working life, I am so glad that I did spend that time at camp. The relationships and character I built over those Summers is so valuable to me now. 

And it’s a lot of little things. At camp we had a saying “What do we do at Rockmont when it rains?…We get wet.” We don’t stop just because conditions are not ideal. This translates to the work world. We have to pivot, and keep having fun.

It’s drawn me to seek out authentic relationships with others. There is something about camp that helps relationships to be based on a common denominator outdoors that is so different from the outside world’s typical status markers. Having spent Summers as a counselor/staffer and seeing countless relationships form in the woods, being active, swimming, climbing, building fires, hiking, rafting, etc…allows me to shrug off some of the distractions/titles/social mores in our world and initiate authenticity in my working relationships with clients and co-workers.

3. What is most important for people to understand about the camp experience and why it must be protected/preserved?

The camp experience is a unique way that kids can get out of their comfort zone, experience new things in new ways that cannot be replicated in the real world, and to do it away from their parents in a healthy setting. 

Little things like eating meals as a group and learning to clean up the table… which,  while mundane in the camping world, translates positively to life outside of camp.

Being a part of something so fun, with new people and growing perspectives while safe, yet, out of your element – creates exponential personal growth. 

Often as a counselor, we were read letters from parents thanking the camp for their child’s wonderful experience and how much the parents noticed a change or growth in their camper for the better. 

Colleges and corporations seek out “low ropes” or “high ropes” courses for the physical aspects of team building. These courses are fun and exciting ways to explore team interaction and problem solving and define leadership. Camp does this for all levels of campers and Summer staff…it’s like a deep dive seminar accomplished the in great outdoors.