ACA 2023- Reflections from Oliver

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Last week I learned more than I thought possible at the American Camp Association National Conference in Orlando. As I review my notes, I am left with profound gratitude to be a part of such a warm, insightful, and meaningful industry. Thank you to all the incredible leaders I met, the speakers who provided valuable insights and key takeaways, and of course my phenomenal team at Sanborn Western Camps/Colorado Outdoor Education Center for the collaboration and fun along the way!

Those who know me understand that data is my best friend (besides my dog!) and the science is as clear as day- camp and spending time outside fosters children and young adults to understand the world, and their place in it. It provokes them into formulating their own unique ideas, and drastically improves cognitive, affective, and moral development. In a new post-pandemic world and reality, children need us more than ever- and I know we’re ready and inspired to rise to that challenge.

As a first time year-round director at a residential summer camp & outdoor education center, I could write a post that could turn into a novel with everything I took away this week, but I’ll keep these takeaways and shoutouts brief.

•“Research drives dollars”- Deborah Gilboa, MD. Dr. G completely shifted my mindset when it comes to what children know and what they need to know about mental health. We took a look at trends over the last 5 years, and the outcomes were overpowering. The science of mattering is breakthrough in preventing stress and mental health conditions.

•Katie Johnson & Meredith Stewart from The Redwoods Group taught me to begin with the end in mind and that supervision is truly a verb! Modeling the behavior/s of what we expect from our staff is paramount in garnering trust and an overall culture of safety and fun. My promise to them- I’ll be identifying the banks of the river!

•Kim Aycock has a disarming, eloquent speaking style that captivated me during two of her sessions. Kim is absolutely brilliant when it comes to the evolving staffing hurdles we face. She is strategic and is exceptionally forward thinking with her solutions-oriented approaches. She also motivated me to ensure that our mission, vision, & values are transparent and well aligned across the board.

…and there is so much more. To say I am grateful after this week is an understatement. Now comes the time to apply what we learned, evolve and grow intentionally, and continue our preparation for summer 2023 and beyond.

The learning curve of this job is limitless. And we do it for children, knowing they’ll leave after a summer at Sanborn far better equipped to face the real world than they were when they first stepped foot onto our property. ACA, We’ll see you next year in New Orleans where the learning never ends!

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Oliver Fisher
About Oliver Fisher