Singing — in chapel, with the choir, and for the a cappella group "Serendipity" — is part of what Katie O'Brien '19 loves doing at Brooks.
But the North Andover teen had no idea when she signed up to work for Brooks' Summer Programs that she'd find herself belting out melodies in a boat floating on Lake Cochichewick with boisterous five-year-olds.
"One day when I took out some younger campers in a canoe, they started singing a song from The Greatest Showman," said O'Brien, whose job as a boats counselor involves teaching campers boating technique for the canoes and rowboats. "I love that movie so I joined in, and we all sang the song as loud as we could in the middle of the lake. It just made my day! Little things like that have made my summer really memorable."
O'Brien (above), who was a Leader-in-Training at camp last season, joined four other Brooks students from North Andover in working at Brooks Summer Programs' Day Camp this year: Brian Barker-Morrill '20 (in photo below), Brian Flanagan '18, Anya Sanchorawala '21, and Mathias Tankersley '19. And all have had similar unexpected moments of joy during the past three months at camp, which wraps up tomorrow.
"It's been the most amazing experience," said Sanchorawala. "I love spending my days with kids who never fail to make me smile and laugh. It's an incredible feeling when a camper and I have a true bond, created in just a few days."
As a counselor working with kids ranging in age from four to 12 doing sports and arts-and-crafts, she's become connected to Brooks in a new way through the campers' explorations. "Now, I have memories from both school and camp in every nook and cranny of the school," Sanchorawala shared. "That's something most people cannot say!"
Tankersley (above and below) learned a lot at Brooks this summer too, especially about practicing patience. His role is transporting campers to and from their activities on schedule. "It is deceptively difficult," he admitted. "I underestimated how much can happen in a short walk from the gym to the academic building, especially in a group of 20 nine-year-olds. A lot of my job includes settling conflict between campers, ensuring safety — which requires much more attention than I thought it would — and creating a calm, fun atmosphere."
Working on campus also "completely changed" his perspective of how the School functions. "I was aware that we have some summer camps, but I had no idea the operation was this big!" Tankersley said. "I now know that Brooks truly does not sleep!"
This 47th season of Summer Programs has been a particularly busy one. In addition to the four, two-week-long Day Camp sessions in which these Brooks students worked, the department introduced several new camps: Week-long Nike Northeast Football and Field Hockey clinics; Ready Set Row, a month-long girls rowing program; and two basketball camps, Academic Basketball Awareness camp and Game Time Training camp.
Vogelsinger Soccer Academy returned for a month, while Summer School and Drobots Drone Camp expanded to include residential components. Computer Camp grew from six- to eight-weeks long.
Boats counselor O'Brien, for her part, is used to hustle and bustle on campus during the summer. "I have been coming to camp since I was six-years-old," she said. "Before starting school here, I had only known the campus as camp. It is pretty cool how the two experiences of being at Brooks can feel so different."
Both bring her benefit. "I feel as though I have more confidence as a leader at camp because I am a student at Brooks," O'Brien explained. "I know more people and the campus on a deeper level. And during the school year, my camp memories actually help me stay in a good mood. I look around and remember camp and feel happy."
There are many reasons that recent-graduate Flanagan (above) enjoyed working at Summer Programs. "It's always fun getting to play and talk with the kids," said the Commencement Weekend Athletics speaker, headed to Providence College this fall. "Their favorite thing is when I pick them up and throw them into the air then catch them. ...And it makes me feel good when the kids vote me as their representative for Marshall Arts and Crafts, or when they ask me to come in the pool with them."
The greatest reason, though, just may be that these three months gave Flanagan an opportunity to put off his final farewell. "Each time I walk in parts of campus that I am very familiar with, a new memory from my past four years comes to mind, and that is awesome to see," he said. "This school has changed my whole life and made me who I am today, so I am glad I get to spend as much time as I can on this campus."
Friendly faces are another bonus. "I'm always saying to faculty that I see walking around campus, 'I wish I could have just one more year here!'" Flanagan joked. "I'm so grateful for Brooks, and I am going to miss it so, so, so much." (We'll keep you posted about whether he returns as a counselor next summer!)
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