Sometimes an interest becomes a passion, and if you’re lucky enough, that passion becomes part of your livelihood. That’s exactly what happened to Sam, aka greekgeeksam236, one of Connected Camps’ extraordinary counselors who is now a sophomore at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Giving It a Go
Sam started out as a Volunteer Counselor in Summer 2015 during Connected Camps’ very first summer, “back when we were separated into Diamond and Emerald (East and West Coast) servers,” she said. “I volunteered a few nights a week back when shifts were four hours long and very focused on free play and survival.”
When I asked how Sam heard about Connected Camps, she explained she first heard about it the program via an email from the Allegheny (Pennsylvania) Intermediate Unit, a regional public education agency where she’d been taking a French course. When she found out Connected Camps had a volunteer opportunity that would enable her to play Minecraft, it was a no-brainer. “At the time I joined Connected Camps, Sam said, I was only participating in Choir and Biology Club after school and then going home, doing my homework, and playing Xbox with friends all night, which did include Minecraft quite often.” At Connected Camps she found it “really easy to get involved in, meet new people, and make friends.”
Finding a Community
That group of friends eventually became her peers and co-workers. In Summer 2017, Sam was hired as a Lead Counselor. As a Lead Counselor, Sam says she spends a lot of time planning and prepping camps and preparing the curriculum, but that no two days are ever the same. She works alongside a dedicated group of counselors–one that’s split evenly among young women and men–who have become close friends.
Sam gushed, “Like any place, there have been plenty of stressful times, some late nights planning and building camps and events, but there are some wonderful people here who I’m really glad I’ve met. I’ve made several friends here that have been invaluable to me, personally and professionally, and I love them to death!”
She’s also grown personally and professionally in the role. Sam says her experiences as a counselor have made her better at voicing her opinions and speaking up. She’s learned a variety of new skills, from new Minecraft commands, to communicating with fellow counselors, campers, and parents.
Sam explained that Connected Camps is also a place that fosters gender diversity, and that her identity as a girl gamer isn’t something she thinks about regularly. She explained, “How you relate to campers is entirely dependent on your experiences, both on and offline, and your personality, and I feel very strongly about that.” She admits that there can be a stigma against girl gamers, but Sam is supported both professionally at Connected Camps and by her family as well; her mother was the one who forwarded the email about Connected Camps and has helped her see that “it’s all about WHO you play with, not what you play.”
Relishing the Role
When asked if she had a particular photo she wanted to include with this feature, she immediately sent the image above. Explaining its meaning, Sam said modestly, “Cheesy, but this was my very first coding camp, and one of the first structured summer camps we ran. I took this picture on the last day and cried like a baby when camp was over. I actually keep it as my screensaver to remind me why I love this job so much.”
It’s no surprise, then, that her campers love her equally. The picture captures the group of beginning coders she had worked with the group of beginning coders she had worked with all week. They wanted to“take a selfie” with their “favorite counselor.”