by Dever Cunningham, Youth Counselor
This summer was the fourth year that my mom, brother and I volunteered at the Pejuhutazizi Family Learning Camp in the Upper Sioux Community — also known as the Pejuhutazizi Oyate — in Granite Falls, Minnesota. I love every year of the camp experience, which lasts a week for the Baltimore Dakota Learning Camp crew of staff, campers and organizers.
I’ve been a counselor for four years and I can’t wait to go back and see the kids in my group. All of the kids in my group are amazing and brilliant in their own way. It’s amazing to see how much they’ve changed over the year, and even better when they recognize me, even though I’ve changed a lot over the four years, too: getting taller; wearing different styles of clothing and hairstyles (first long then short, then long and tied back in a ponytail).
I still cherish memories from my first year, like playing with the kids on the playground or my group eating lunch under the table for fun to make one shy boy named Boston [pictured in two of the photos above] feel more comfortable. The second year was even better as we enjoyed chasing frogs through the grass and seeing if we could find one bigger than the ones we had already caught. The third year was as much fun as all the others because we reunited with old friends and had lots of fun with robots.
This year was the best yet, with more fun with robots built for sumo wrestling, new friends and a sleepover with the older kids. The playground outside the community center is a great place for all the campers to gather, letting groups come together for a pick up game of basketball or kickball or just some time on the swings and jungle gym. All of the kids at the camp are awesome, especially the younger children. Many of them wanted to play with me even though they hadn’t met me before; and, then, they wanted to follow me around the rest of the camp day even though they weren’t in my group.
My experiences and my connection with these wonderful and special children are what makes me come back year after year. I fully intend to return again next summer even though I’m now in college and don’t know what my schedule will be. Each year the camp gets better and better not just in structure or stations, but in the kids who come, and the joys they bring to the camp and staff every year.