Call to Leadership: My Summer at Culver
By Simone Woolley
Special to The Pilot
In many ways, summertime is supposed to be fun, whether it's doing outdoor activities and sports or just spending time with friends.
Summer is also a time to try new things, make new friends and learn something about yourself.
This summer I had the opportunity to experience all of these things at Culver Summer School and Camps in Culver, Ind. For six weeks, Culver aims to teach young children and teenagers the fundamentals of leadership and how to use it around them and in their daily lives.
They do this by combining the values and lore of our Native American heritage as well as the discipline and traditions of the military.
According to the historical record, the camp was founded in 1912 by the National Scout Commissioner of America, Daniel Carter Beard, under the guidance of Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scout movement.
Because it was a Boy Scout camp, girls were not allowed in until the 1970s. I had the privilege of taking classes in Indian crafts, dances, stories and survival skills that were the foundation of the Native American way of life.
I also got to experience being one of the first girls in the drum and bugle (D&B) corps, which is special since it was restricted to only boys for more than 98 years. I play the trumpet, and we marched in parades every week and played concerts as far away as Chicago.
It was a great honor, especially being asked to play taps for the entire camp. I was able to carry on a D&B tradition that started with my great-uncle when he was a camper in 1953.
The military part of Culver is probably the biggest challenge for new campers. Since this was my third summer, I earned my "C" pin or camper pin, which requires each camper to pass a certain amount of cleaning inspections and to get a specific amount of points based on exemplary behavior (punctuality, personal neatness and manners).
The hardest part for me was cleaning our cabin for inspections - otherwise known as GIs. Everything had to be perfect and STAY perfect.
I took classes in sailing, air rifle, and a high ropes course. My favorite was sailing because of the excitement and the feeling of freedom I had when sailing on the lake alone.
When you get to a certain age level. you are allowed to qualify for senior leadership positions at Culver. You are interviewed in a process known as Review Board. Only the best campers are chosen to go to Review Board, because of their good leadership skills and how they use them throughout their cabin or unit.
Some of the questions I was asked were, "How would you describe Culver to someone else?" and "Tell the board about yourself in 30 seconds."
I was very nervous! I forgot to report in and out properly, and I found it was really hard to put into words what I was thinking. I learned quickly the fundamentals of how to perform during a stressful interview. I know I will do much better next year.
I lived in a cabin with 11 other girls ages 12-14 all summer. As a cabin, we competed against others for athletic and military achievements. It takes a great deal of skill to lead a cabin in a game or competition. You need to be inspiring so that people will listen to you. What you don't already know about living and working together as a group, you learn quickly. No camper is ever "perfect," but you learn when to lead and when to follow.
I think the most important lesson I learned at Culver was being able to teach and lead my peers. Culver provided me a chance to practice this leadership, just as it has for kids like me, for more than 100 years.
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