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Exploring New Possibilities
How Camp Brought Nathan out of his Shell and into Community
Nathan’s learned a lot over the past few years. The youngest of four siblings, he’s leaned into sports, playing left wing on his school’s hockey team, and basketball and soccer in the off-season. He has a good group of friends. And as a self-described shy kid, he’s finding his footing after a bumpy start to belonging.
“The part that I remember the most is elementary, because I felt like an outcast 24/7,” Nathan, now 15, says of his earlier years. “I did have a few friends here and there, but they went to different schools.” While he tried to find activities he liked and people to hang out with, summer camp filled in some of the gaps.
“I found out about camp through UGM, because they let my mom know about it,” he recalls. “She asked me if I wanted to try it and I said sure, because I was curious what it would be like.” Nathan’s first camp experience included his mom, his aunt, and his cousins, and family camp opened up his summers to new adventures. “There was tubing, water skiing, and just regular swimming. They recently opened up the sailboats. So I get to sail a bit.”
Through camp, Nathan got used to trying out unfamiliar activities. So when his aunt introduced him to the Eastsiders After School Program at UGM, he was ready to take the leap and join. “I got familiar with Eastsiders and decided, yep, I wanted to do it,” he says. “I don’t regret it at all. It’s one of the best things that happened to me because through that I learned how to control my anger.”
Emotional maturity and self-regulation are important skills, and Nathan credits the staff of Eastsiders for helping him find balance. “They gave me advice like, ‘Don't give them a reaction. Just stay calm. If something bugs you, just walk away no matter what.’ And so far it’s worked.”
Last summer, equipped with his learnings from Eastsiders and The Space, UGM’s weekly youth program, Nathan went to overnight camp solo for the first time. “I went without my family, so it was scary at first,” he says. “But I ended up making a group of friends—I think there were 20 or 25 people in that group. And it turned out that after camp, everybody got added into a group chat. So we all keep in touch.”
Sports have been another way Nathan has continued his journey into community. During the hockey season, he helps rookies navigate their first year on the team. His hopes for the future include college, and he has his eye on schools with active hockey or football teams. He picked up archery at camp, and it’s one of his favourite yearly activities. “Sport definitely helps you see possibilities,” he says. “It shows you your limits.”
And while he makes reference to limits, it’s clear that Nathan is someone who’s growing at the speed of light. He sees camp as an important part of that development. “Camp opens you up to things that you haven't tried yet,” he says. “It opens you up to potential.”