With the large number of COVID-19 vaccinations and few restrictions, America’s summer of 2021 felt like a return to normalcy for many. U-High students had the opportunity to work and travel, gaining valuable lessons and meaningful relationships along the way.
This summer, junior Kiran Chinniah spent six weeks working as a counselor for Adventure Kids, a summer program at Lab. Though planning activities and playing with her group of kids was fun, Kiran said the highlights of her experience were her relationships with the seven other counselors, most of them Lab students as well.
“I think we had a really great group of counselors working together, so it was a really nice work environment,” Kiran said. “Most of us grew up going to camp together, so we mostly knew everyone. Then, during our breaks, we got close pretty quickly.”
Senior Alina Susani also got the chance to reconnect with others over the summer. She spent 10 weeks in Turkey, visiting family and friends that she hadn’t seen for two years because of the pandemic.
“When we got back, we just clicked right back in, and it was like no time had passed,” Alina said.
Alina has traveled to Turkey almost every summer since she was born, but of course this year was different. There were limitations on what they could do, Alina said. Still, she spent most of her time with her friends sailing and going to the beach, so it felt relatively normal.
Senior Julien Deroitte was able to spend time away from home as well. Right after school ended, he went on a five-day backpacking trip in the Allegheny Mountains with his friends.
“It was really nice because obviously there was no homework, no teachers,” Julien said. “But also it was totally disconnected from devices, and it was a good break from being completely online.”
Julien also went to the Blue Lake Fine Arts camp in Michigan. There, he developed his viola skills by learning how to make music without his teacher. Julien felt that this camp taught him many important lessons that have stuck with him.
“Having to rely on myself taught me a lot about independence and knowing when to work,” Julien said. “I learned about finding your own weaknesses and trying to solve them, as well as listening to others.”
Similarly, sophomore Aaron Moss participated in an ensemble casual Shakespeare summer camp. He performed shortened versions There, he learned acting skills such as stage combat and plans to join the U-High theatre.
“You are learning from professionals there,” Aaron said. “Learning to embody a character, to walk like them, and learn their movements.”
Working as a camp counselor taught Kiran skills that she now uses as a peer leader, such as time management, asking for help, and getting middle school students to engage with the activities.
“Motivating them to do a lot of the activities was a challenge. You’d say something, and they’d automatically be like, ‘no.’ I feel like that’s how the freshmen can be sometimes,” Kiran said. “One thing I learned well was how to pivot. If the kids were absolutely hating an activity, I learned how to kind of turn that around into something positive.”
With the freedom to do many more activities this summer, U-High students are heading into the school year with new experiences and skills to help them succeed.
Correction issued for accuracy on Oct. 7. The original story wrongly stated that the group of seniors went backpacking in the Appalachian Mountains, rather than the Allegheny Mountains.