10 Things I Learned During my First Year as a Troy Camp Counselor

By: Jason "Gnomeo" Mierczynski

I joined Troy Camp this past year as a sophomore, and during my first exciting year, I learned so many new things about myself, our organization, and the great kids we work with.

1.) Troy Camp is one of USCs Oldest and Largest Student Run Organizations

Founded in 1948 by Otis Healy, Troy Camp has been an organization of mentorship and leadership for hundreds of kids in the Los Angeles area. The Troy Camp Legacy is a powerful one, and when joining Troy Camp, you join the family of counselors that take you back more than half a century. I thought it was super cool to join such a tight-knit organization that dates back so far, and is still so connected.

2.) Troy Camp is STUDENT RUN… AKA Everything is done by counselors.

I was so surprised that everything done by Troy Camp was done 100% by counselors-from everyday programming, to finances, to the biggest fundraisers, to planning camp itself, all of the things that happen for this organization are planned and organized by students at USC. This really empowered me to want to get more involved to make everything as good as it could be.

3.) Club meetings CAN be fun!

Before joining TC, I was told that the TC meetings were more exciting and energetic than your average club meeting. I was surprised though by just how exciting these meetings actually were! Troy Camp meetings are a total blast, with chants, songs, and funny stories that keep you engaged and excited about the information and upcoming camp events.

4.) There’s always room for personal growth!

Everyone, even new members, have the opportunity to push themselves for leadership roles and positions. This past year, I was Assistant Director of Pass the Can (one of our fundraisers), as well as SMASH head at West Vernon. I was more excited and motivated to get involved after having these positions and am now on the Executive Board for next school year. Everyone has the opportunity to get involved with a position of leadership to make an impact on our kids and this organization!

5.) You can commit to 1 hour a week, or 10!

I have a busy schedule without Troy Camp, so when I got in, I was worried that I would not be able to do much to help. Luckily, there are so many different facets and programs at Troy Camp that you can pretty much get involved with any busy schedule. Through attending different elementary school programs during the day, to middle/high school programs at night, to working on committees throughout the week, anyone can make their schedules fit to Troy Camp, and you can commit as much or as little as you want to.

6.) Middle Schoolers aren’t “Too cool for school”

When I was an LITeam Leader for our Leaders in Training program with the middle schoolers, I was apprehensive and worried that they would be in that “too cool” phase that so many of us went through during those early teenage years. Luckily, my co, Doodlebob, and I had a great group of kids and it was fun to get them excited about the programming and workshops. LIT has become one of my favorite things about Troy Camp.

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7.) High Schoolers are still so eager to learn and excited for their future.

These high schoolers are the absolute best kids in the world. Something I find absolutely incredible is that some of these kids have been coming to Troy Camp events since they were in elementary school. They have committed almost 10 years of their lives to this organization and have really given themselves to the opportunity to grow and develop through this organization. This past semester, I became very close with one of the Junior Counselors, Jupiter. It was awesome to learn about him, his dreams and ambitions, and be able to help him make goals and work to achieve them. I even had the opportunity to take Jupiter to one of my film classes during the semester to help him get a hands on experience in the film school, which is his dream school. TC Leads and the bond I have created with Jupiter have become one of the most impactful things I have done at Troy Camp.

8.) There is something so special about having my own cabin of kids.

This past year at camp, I was lucky enough to have my own cabin of third graders, themed “B2 Time Travelers.” I was super anxious to meet my 9 energetic and excited boys, and had no idea what to expect. Something so special about having my own cabin of kids was that I had the opportunity to learn about each of them individually. The time I spent with each of my boys one-on-one to learn about their lives in school and their families was such a meaningful experience for me and for them. We had a blast all week, but I think the most impactful experience of camp was the time I got to spend with each of my boys.

9.) TCounselors are some of the greatest people I have ever met.

I joined this organization to make a difference in the community-but something I did not expect is that I would end up finding some of my best friends at USC in Troy Camp. From football games, to movie nights, to study nights, to even random road trips up the California coast over spring break, the times I have spent with some of the friends I have made in Troy Camp are some that I will never forget. The TCounselors are all the best, and I can’t wait to spend more time with them in the upcoming years.

10.) These. Kids. Are. AMAZING.

ver the year, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know so many different kids throughout every program in Troy Camp. I can honestly say that these kids are some of the smartest, wittiest, sassiest, and most fun kids I have ever met, and I have loved getting to spend as much time with them as possible. From school programming, to different yearlong events, to LIT or TCLeads, Troy Camp has given me the opportunity to be a mentor and role model to some of the coolest kids, and I am so lucky to have been given the opportunity to play a role in these kids’ lives.