Reflecting on 2018

I thought I’d take a moment and reflect on 2018, the year we launched El Pueblo Spanish Camp. Scroll to the bottom to read what Emi, Marisol, and I are looking forward to in 2019.

Our Core Values

When I think back on 2018, I see the way that Core Values can really help establish the culture of an organization.

For some,  “Core Values” is just another box to check on the “best practices” list. But for us, when we decided to establish core values for Language South, we wanted them to express something from our hearts. Emi, Marisol, and I brainstormed in a bunch of Google Docs and Sheets and eventually found two words to encompass our values: “Learners and Lovers” or “Aprendices y Amantes.”

#learnersandlovers

I think we saw the most success with our Core Values in the way our team embraced them last summer. We saw our counselors demonstrate love in their actions and their words, and we saw that they were always ready to learn something new. When they prepared and ran activities, we saw them passionately work to inspire a love of learning in our campers. In the past couple of months, we received a number of applications from counselors who want to return, and their appreciation of our values was apparent in what they shared in their returner applications:
“Ser parte del equipo de El Pueblo significa ser un Amante y Aprendiz.”
To be a part of the El Pueblo team is to be a Lover and a Learner.
“En El Pueblo, todos somos aprendices.”
En El Pueblo, we all are learners.
“El gran carácter de El Pueblo es mantener un ambiente para amantes y aprendices, lo cual significa que apoyamos a los campistas, a los consejeros, y a todo el equipo de por vida.”
It is the great character of El Pueblo to maintain an environment for lovers and learners, which means that we support the campers, counselors, and the whole team for life.
We called our 2018 counselors our “fundadores” (founders) and they helped us a lay a strong foundation for what our culture and values will be at El Pueblo in the future.
El Pueblo 2018 Counselor Team Photo

Being a Camp Director

When I worked at the Concordia Language Villages prior to Language South, our dean was Kika Baedke. I remember that she would often tear up at camp, most often with tears of joy. I thought she was just a very sensitive and sentimental (and lovable) person. In 2018, I came to understand some of the deep emotions, and especially joy, that can be experienced as a camp director. I definitely have a new appreciation and understanding of Kika now. I learned that running a camp is more work than I could have even imagined, but I also experienced how moving it can be to see your dream camp community become a reality. You put your heart and soul into a project and then see others embrace your vision and values and share it, and it can easily provoke tears. I definitely teared up a few times last summer.
Camp Director Teo Talking with Campers at a Table

Camp Director is the hardest leadership position I’ve ever had, but it’s also the most fulfilling (and I’m fortunate to share the position with my wife and co-director, Emi). My responsibilities in 2018 ranged from first-aid and food safety to staff development and videography. I had many sleepless nights leading up to and during El Pueblo 2018, and I don’t imagine they’ll be my last. But it was all worth it to see the way that our campers and staff members grew and learned about themselves in our loving, supportive community.

I imagine I’ll look back on 2018 and think about how naive I was as a director, and how much I needed to learn and grow. Nonetheless, I think we’re off to a good start and I look forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead.

The Campers

The saying goes, “The proof is in the pudding.” For camp, I think “the proof is in the campers.” At the end of the day, camp isn’t a success unless we see smiling campers leave camp inspired to continue learning about languages and cultures throughout the year.

At the beginning of 2018, we didn’t have a single camper registered for camp. We head into 2019 with 23 campers already registered for the summer, and even more families have told us they plan to register soon! It’s so encouraging to see that campers had an experience that made them want to come back. And we’re also excited to see the new camper registrations from people who found out about us through word of mouth.

Smiling Boys at Camp
We love hearing about the positive impact camp had on their campers, and it helps us know we’re doing something right! A couple of parents from families with Latino heritage shared that while their campers had been hesitant or resistant to learning Spanish before camp, they came home with a new curiosity and enthusiasm for the language. One parent told us that his camper is already studying so that he’ll have an even higher level of Spanish when he arrives at camp next summer. Another parent told us that her daughter frequently wears her camp shirt and goes around singing songs from camp. Other parents told us how their children and teens were inspired to try out their Spanish with people who speak Spanish in their community.

Smiling Girls at Camp

As a camp director, the positive feedback really helps me feel confident about pushing forward to grow El Pueblo in the future. As we grow, we hope we can maintain our values and community in such a way that we impact even more campers the way we did in 2018.

Looking Forward

A lot of new challenges and opportunities await in 2019 for Language South. Marisol moves to Chattanooga next week to join our year-round team full-time. We’re moving into a new office. We’re adding a mini-camp for elementary school campers, and hope to serve a much larger group of campers. I’m starting 2019 full of anticipation. I carry with me excitement and enthusiasm from what we experienced in 2018.

I’ll close up this reflection by sharing below Emi and Marisol’s positive expectations for 2019. If you’re reading this, I hope you’ll be a part of our camp community this year!

“I’m excited that in 2019 we’ll have some of our first year campers and staff coming back to join us for their second year. I can’t wait to see how these awesome individuals grow as leaders as they help us welcome new campers and staff into El Pueblo and we all continue to grow together.” – Emi
“I can’t wait to see the reunions between staff and campers on registration day. The first day of camp was always such an exciting time for me as a camper, as I returned to old and new faces, recognizing the space and feeling the memories race back!” – Marisol

¡Adiós 2018 y bienvenido 2019!

Click here to read more about our Language South culture and values.