Before Ashley came to camp, she didn’t understand the impact people claimed it had. Things like how it “changed them” and how a single experience could “turn their world upside”. But all this changed when Ashley got the opportunity to be a part of Trek 44 at Camp Seymour, thanks to an opportunity from YMCA of the USA’s Strategic Initiatives Fund . Her experience with the Trek program and time at camp did what she used to think wasn’t possible – it truly changed her. “I have grown more as a person in these past two weeks than during the entire 8th grade. Camp has allowed me to find who I truly am, and has realized how much I’m capable of.”

The atmosphere at camp is unlike anything she had ever experienced and is her favorite part. “Camp creates a judgement-free zone,” Ashley explains. “Because of this, we are willing to share more personal stories at embers which allows us to bond way closer together as a group.” It also allows people to connect with each other on a deeper level. “I feel more connected to the people around me. I now live much more in the moment, and have a stronger appreciation for those who have helped bring me where I am.”

Even before coming to camp, Ashley had a desire for helping others. She is passionate about bridging the summer enrichment and opportunity gap between students of different socioeconomic sectors. She is currently serving as the scholarship director for the nonprofit the Kids First Project where she helps low-income students fund summer camp expenses, study abroad trips and more. Ashley’s camp experience has simply fuels this a fire to help others within her. She knows how much her time at camp changed her, and wants to help others be able to enjoy and experience it as well. “My ultimate goal I want to accomplish here at camp is to not only trek my own path, but to help someone else find their own path. I feel like camp encourages us to support each other and empower each other to the point where we feel valued because we have made a meaningful impact on someone else’s life.”

Through the rag program, Ashley hopes to accomplish this goal of helping others. Within the program, she is surround by people who what to help and make sure she succeeds. There is always someone there to listen, hold her accountable, and assist along the way. “It’s one thing to make a goal, it’s another thing to write that goal down, but it’s a totally different thing to have someone help you along your way to reaching that goal.”

This summer may have been Ashley’s first, but surely won’t be her last. She is participating in a three year development program. She spent a lot of her time learning about being a servant leader and what it means to put others needs before your own. For Ashely, leadership is built upon service and sacrifice, another key attribute that will help her on her mission to help bring kid of low-income families to camp.

“Before camp, I did not understand how people can say a few days at camp entirely changed them as a person. I now believe that a person can be entirely changed in a matter of hours at camp. It wasn’t all at once – my course was merely adjusted by a few degrees. But that few degrees has already taken me so far, and I look forward to seeing what is yet to come.”

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