YMCA Camp Kitaki

On Being Weird

On Being Weird

While glancing through my news feed on Facebook, a post caught my eye. The picture included with it said:

“I admit that my level of weirdness is above the national average, but I’m comfortable with that.” It was further captioned: “It’s the teachers who aren’t afraid to be themselves with students that get the most engagement. #beweird”

I was intrigued by the message and noticed it was posted by a friend and alum of Kitaki staff who, in her own comments to the meme, thanked Kitaki for helping her learn to engage with students.

I love the message. When I was a kid I remember my dad making these sandwiches for me. They were bologna, mayonnaise and peanut butter sandwiches. I loved them. I’m pretty sure they qualify as weird, and in fact I went through a phase in life when I wouldn’t admit it to anyone. I haven’t had one since I was 11 or 12. I remember worrying that liking them was weird.

When someone comes to camp, they are probably struck by a lot of things that could be called weird. To the casual observer, a dinner song with college-age staff running around singing about cold pizza as they swing from the rafters is weird and wacky, a quirk of this place that defies normal. The reality is that it is anything but a small quirk, and is instead a very intentional culmination of a lot of planning and forethought. Every single camper that comes to Kitaki, whether it is their first or seventh time, is worried about something about themselves. Something about themselves that is unique or different about who they are or what they like. The biggest fear for most is that they will be socially excluded because of who they are. Our goal is to get a head of that. If we as the adults of camp show ourselves unabashedly being weird from the start, it will help our boost camper’s confidence. If they are THAT weird, maybe I can be me.

On the surface it is just a song, or tag game where everyone screams YEEE HAWWW! at the top of their lungs, but in reality each and every one of these little actions add up to an environment where we are making it easier for kids to celebrate the things that make each person unique rather than fear or try to hide them.

To the alumni who posted this: you aren’t weird, you are wonderfully and amazingly you.

To every camper that comes to camp, our staff are going to be themselves. It might seem a little weird at first, but hopefully, in time, it will help you be more confident in the wonderful and amazing person you are.

It’s the teachers who aren’t afraid to be themselves with students that get the most engagement. For us it’s the camp staff who aren’t afraid to be themselves that show the campers it’s perfectly normal to be who they are.

I think I will go make a bologna, mayonnaise and peanut butter sandwich.

Jason Smith

Executive Director

Halloween Camp - Enjoy an overnight at Kitaki.  Halloween Fun for ages 7-14!

Fall Family BBQ - Fall fun for the whole family!  Includes dinner and the Senser Family Black Light Show!