Spotlight on Staff: Jill Pays it Forward!

My keys hang on a lanyard of beads strung by a 9 year old. Around my wrist are a combination of string friendship bracelets and silly bands. On my car is a bumper sticker that reads “Roscoe Diner.” The desktop background of my computer is a picture of the most comforting lake in the world – Timber Lake West’s lake. My name is Jill, I’m 21 years old and a senior at the University of Maryland. But no matter how old I get, or where I go, the camp bubble is never far away. Not only is my life better for having gone to Timber Lake West, my life is where it is because of West!

I boarded my first bus to Roscoe, NY in 1999 as an 8 year old tom boy with buck teeth. And now, 13 years later, I’m about to graduate college with the hopes of becoming a teacher. I landed on this career path primarily because camp showed me that I have a true passion for children. Plus, education allows me the luxury of going back to my home-away-from-home every summer!  The 10 months of the year I spend away from camp are undoubtedly shaped by my previous summer’s influence.

In 2005, when I was approaching my final year as a camper, I got a babysitting job in order to pay to stay for both four week sessions. My parents didn’t love the idea, so I took it upon myself to raise the money. To this day I’ve never felt more accomplished. Moreover, this gesture proved to me and everyone else in my life the extent to which I love Timber Lake West. Since then, caring for children has been a huge part of my life.

Currently, I work for a family in a suburb of Washington, DC. Marissa, their 17 year old daughter, was born with Cerebral Palsy. Her disability prohibits her from driving and attending regular high school. Twice a week I work for her parents helping to take her to therapy appointments and other activities. Spending time with Marissa and getting to know her beyond the limitations of her disability has changed my understanding of the world. Children are magical in this way. Each one of them, regardless of age, race, or personality, all have something to teach you. Each June I go back to camp (now as a Group Leader), hoping to make an impact on the lives of my campers. And each August I leave dumbfounded by how much each of those campers manages to impact me.

In recent years, I was given the honor of expressing my sentiment for camp through the lyrics of color war alma matars. I think I captured it the best as General of Red Disco when I wrote “one voice, one heart, one season, love never ending, this is the way that we learn, lives joined together.” Timber Lake West and my experiences there have shaped the person I am today.  Because of West,  I will forever spend my summers paying it forward…