The Alumni Spotlight gives us the opportunity to catch up with a Tamarack alum, hear about where they are now, and learn how Tamarack Camps shaped them. We cannot wait to welcome Jenifer Strauss back home as an Artist-in-Residence at Camp Maas this summer! Read her story below!
When did you attend Tamarack Camps? What villages or programs were you part of?
My first summer at Tamarack was 1972. I was in Girls Specialty, Pioneer and fell in love at first sight. The next three years, I was a Wilderness, Agree, and Advanced Agree Camper. In future summers, I returned to Tamarack as a Fishman Village counselor, Fishman Village supervisor, part of the Adventure Program team, Alaska trip leader in 1984 and worked as a naturalist in the School Camping program for one year. Three years ago, I started returning to Tamarack Camps as a Resident Artist.
What lessons did you learn from camp?
I learned how at home I was in the natural world! I learned that I was stronger in body and mind than I ever knew before having to carry a canoe over miles of portage trails. At Agree Outpost Camp, I learned to cook for large groups, bake homemade bread, prepare a hot sauna for a group returning to camp, dig a pit toilet and sing Bob Dylan songs before I ever heard Bob Dylan sing them. I learned how to communicate respectfully, how to listen deeply and how to trust myself. I followed my trip leaders into a program at the University of Michigan and majored in Environmental Education which lead to all the career choices that followed.
What are you up to now personally and/or professionally?
For the last 30 years I have been the sole proprietor of a business called Story Be Told where I serve as a Storyteller and Narrative Coach helping educators, organizations and individuals use story to connect, communicate and accomplish goals. For several years, I have returned to camp as a Artist-in-Residence to do the same!
How did camp impact how you live your life today?
Tamarack changed how I live my life in a multitude of ways. Because of camp, I continue to seek wilderness experiences as often as I can and am still more comfortable in the north woods than anywhere else on earth. My career path was influenced by camp. I chose environmental education and a lifetime of teaching young people because of the counselors who influenced me early on and my experiences as a counselor, supervisor and trip leader. Tamarack taught me the importance of communication, collaboration and inclusion.
Why is Tamarack Camps “The Greatest Place on Earth”?
Tamarack Camps is “The Greatest Place on Earth” because it gives young people the opportunity to explore the world, try new things and learn a great deal about themselves. The choices are endless and desire for adventure is encouraged in a place that promotes joy, freedom, acceptance and valuable life experience.
Was there a staff member that made a lasting impact on you and why?
So many staff left a lasting impression on me but I would have to say that my trip leader, Donna Weiner, was one of the greatest influences on my life as a young adult. She was a strong, joyful woman who was not only a trip leader but a dear friend. I followed her lead in so many areas of my life at that time like my major in college, the importance of honoring myself and others, a love of music and singing, the joy of identifying birds, trees and flowers, how to listen and care about others deeply, read books avidly and trust myself implicitly.
Favorite camp memory:
Way too many to mention! Here’s a few:
Waking up on my first morning at Tamarack Camps in Girls Specialty Village and heading down to the wash house… hearing screen doors slam and people singing, “Rise and Shine!”
Spending nine days paddling in the rain on my Wilderness trip. On the ninth night, the rain stopped and we saw the northern lights dance across the sky.
Arriving at Lake Superior on the Agawa Canyon hiking trip and skinning dipping in Lake Superior.
Leading a group of Alaska campers over the Chilkoot Trail.
….a million other amazing memories!
Favorite camp meal:
Fresh picked blueberry pancakes at Agree Outpost.
Chapleau canoe trip at Agree Outpost.
Favorite program/theme day:
I loved Shabbos in Ortonville and everything about Agree Outpost!
Dream Tamarack reunion idea:
Return to Agree Outpost with folks who were there when I was a camper there.