On Friday I ended a month stint as a day camp counselor at The Boys Club of New York, Abbe Clubhouse out in Queens. It was a very interesting and mostly fun experience. There were however some trying moments. Nonetheless, I learned a lot of things.
I really love counseling. It's extremely fun and it provides an opportunity to make an impact on the lives of children. I've counseled at various summer camps and after school programs here in New York (City and State) and Atlanta, GA. As my time wound down at my former job I was looking for a counseling position to have some fun as a final hooray before school starts in September. I was able to land the spot out in Queens, thanks to what some may call nepotism but what I call connections lol.
As I mentioned, it was a fun summer. I was assigned to the Mega Trips department where we went on trips daily. Pretty awesome. The main issue that I had was that I felt that while I was ensuring the kids safety and fun (my job), I wasn't making an impact emotionally and contributing to the improvement of their lives (my responsibility) the way that I was used to. The boys didn't really respect me, look up to me, draw inspiration from me or even listen to me like I was used to.
In previous positions I was able to build bonds with kids and help improve their lives. This is something I take pride in and love doing. I didn't feel that at this camp, and it was truly a shock and a wake up call. When I thought about why it was this way I was even more shocked.
I have been told by many people that my greatest talent is the way I can connect with children, all children, but "At Risk" children in particular. You know the black/minority, from the hood, chip on their shoulder, fitting for survival, products of non-ideal parenting situations, etc. type of children.
*Sidenote I've always hated that term "At Risk." At risk of what? Being great? Nah. Being a problem, criminal, dumb, dying, etc. Ugh I hate it.*
I digress. People always ask me and wonder why am I so good at connect with these types of children. I never have a great answer for them. It's really just that I am one of them. Plain and simple. This was my calling card, one that I thought would never fail and I was wrong.
For the most part the boys at the camp and clubhouse in general face some of those attributes (disadvantages) that I mentioned earlier and that I share with them. So I was shocked that I couldn't connect with them. It was really the first time this has happened to me.
I realized that while I may have shared similar life stories to those boys, I wasn't one of them. The Boys Club is indeed that a club. Almost every male in that building had been a member of the club as a child themselves. If not, they had been working there for as long as the boys could remember. I was just an outsider, just a random person. I had a lot to offer but I couldn't make a mark.
(Granted I was only there for a month, so maybe I'm over thinking the whole thing lol).
On an aside, yesterday morning I also thought about how I wasn't the only black man or one of the few black men around. The club is full of positive black male role models. I've always been used to being one of few/or the only black role model. When that's the case it's easy for me to make an impact. This got me thinking about other situations where positive black models are the norm (Morehouse immediately comes to mind) and how one makes an impact in a situation like that. (See how my mind works? lol) I'll have to call my mentor and ask him since he is at Morehouse.
Anyway, the point that I took from it all was that we all need more preparation. No matter how good we are at something and how much we can hang our hats on it, it will not always work. We must be able to use other tools when our best one/go to one doesn't work. Even though I'm getting ready to start school anyway, I'm happy I had this wake up call because it totally reaffirms my decision. I hope that we all can realize, sooner rather than later, that we aren't there yet and that we always need to seek improvement.
I also hope that I was able to make some impact at the camp.