Jessie Baloga

"Miniwanca has helped me celebrate my own best self, which allows be to celebrate other’s best selves in return."

Jessie has been been a trip leader for 3 years and reflects now on her work and how it has impacted her as she continues to spread the mission of the AYF in all aspects of her life:

It’s so hard to put into words what a summer at Miniwanca is like. It is the time in my life when I have felt the most full, while also feeling so adequately challenged. The community of Miniwanca brings me so much compassion and confidence for my best self, so that I go to sleep every night full of love for myself and my community. At the same time, the philosophies of Miniwanca encourage me to grow through healthy challenge, meaning I leave every summer at Miniwanca a different person than when I started. This balance they strike between love and growth is so powerful and so successful because they see me as my own unique best self.

For example, I spent last year working at an elementary school as a restorative practices coordinator, which meant my head was full of conflict resolution tactics and activities to build a positive community. Instead of letting me forget these things when I arrived to Miniwanca, the Miniwanca staff challenged me to bring this knowledge to the trip I led this past summer. I worked with my co-leader to develop evening reflections that would help our trip group build a positive community, such as reflections on how each camper had grown in the past year, as well as goals they would like to set for the next year. This encouragement to be my own unique best self meant what I brought to my trip was authentic and meaningful to me.

four trailsI’ve spent three years leading Four Trails trips, and I have this program to thank for who I am today. As I’ve mentioned, Miniwanca, and specifically Four Trails, has helped me celebrate my own best self, which allows be to celebrate other’s best selves in return. Loving and growing along side my campers is such a special experience and the bond we create as a trip group inspires me to continue loving and growing when I leave Miniwanca. After the summer comes to a close, we work on bringing what Miniwanca has taught us back home, meaning that camp really never ends! Miniwanca is a part of me and has taught me that not only at camp, but everywhere I go, is full of unexpected beauty and change, and through absorbing these experiences I am becoming my own best self.