My name is Ally Grossman and I am one of the Girls Side Head Counselors at Chenny. I am 30 years old and a Kindergarten teacher in Jericho, NY. While this is my tenth summer as a Head Counselor, I did not start out this way….
Twenty two summers ago in June of 1997 at the age of 9, I began my Chen-A-Wanda journey. It’s hard to believe that all of our campers and even much of our staff wasn’t even born, (no not because I’m THAT old), because with every year the number people that have shaped my summer experiences grow exponentially and it’s hard to imagine a time when they weren’t there!
As a camper, Chenny was my absolute happy place. I wasn’t the best athlete, but could hold my own on a field or court if it meant winning a Color War game. I loved being a part of the Camp plays, and looked up to the older kids who held leading roles, until I held a few myself. I LIVED for Girls Sing, and was the resident songwriter of my division. My counselors (Julie, Steph, Sarah and Kim to name a few) were my heroes and in my mind and the epitome of cool. Most importantly I made the friends of a lifetime who to this day are the people I tell absolutely everything to, and laugh harder than anyone with. We went from attending bunk sleepovers and bat mitzvahs to yearly girls weekend trips to Vermont, walking down the aisle as bridesmaids at weddings, and Secret Santa gatherings that end in Camp song sing alongs.
After my camper years I transitioned to being a counselor. At the time i thought that that Camp would never be the same…and I was right…but this chapter was equally as amazing. It was during these years that I continued to bond with my childhood friends, but met even more amazing friends, this time from all around the world! There’s an amazing bonded feeling that one has with co counselors. You work together for long hours to do your best to change and shape the lives of the campers and make sure they’re creating the memories they’ll take with them. It’s also an amazing coming of age when you’re making the most amazing memories yourself! I had the opportunity to take on leadership roles as Olympic and Color War Captains which were easily some of the hardest and best days of my life.
My campers were and continue to be my little sisters. There’s no better feeling than realizing that you’re now looked up to by your campers, in the way you looked up to your own. I watched them grow from toothless 8 year olds to amazing young women, counselors themselves and now college graduates who are now taking on the world as young professionals. Most importantly they remain the best of friends. Their continued closeness is one of my favorite successes that I helped to pass down the importance of Camp friendship to the next generation.
As someone who has always loved children, I knew that there was really only one career path that ever made sense…to become a teacher. This would allow me to fulfill my passion for shaping the future during the year, but also gives me the flexibility to continue to come back to Camp each summer. Some have called it “living the dream” and I agree! My experience in the classroom has allowed me to learn and grow as a head counselor, and my experiences each summer come back with me to my classroom and help me to grow as a teacher. In short, I couldn’t be luckier to have not one but two dream jobs! My summer dream job consists of spending my days out doors, singing and dancing during meals, passing down traditions, leading trips and activities, guiding counselors through decision making and conflict resolution, helping kids form and foster life long friendships, and every once and a while even having some time off to continue to foster new and lasting friendships of my own!!
The past twenty two summers my life have been shaped by literally hundreds of campers, counselors, staff and families who have come and gone, and many who still remain. Every single one of them has been an important part of my continuing journey. The one thing I can say to anyone reading this, whether you’re a new staff member, returning camper, or transitioning to a new role is that the best is yet to come, because just when you think your summer will never be the same, you’re right…it’s better!