Summer camp is the place where lifetime friendships–and memories–are made. We know that going to camp is often a girl’s first time away from home for an extended period of time, and this experience helps foster independence and confidence in a special way.
Girl Scouts Heart of Central California (GSHCC) has been sharing the joys of the outdoors with girls for more than 70 years. Essential to a girl’s ability to grow and thrive at camp is a supportive and skilled team of camp staff. Our camp staff is led by a remarkable duo, known affectionately at camp as “Shasta” and “Bones.”
We recently sat down with Shasta (Outdoor Experience Manager Heidi Truitt) and Bones (Assistant Camp Manager Leah Traina) to learn a little more about their experience and what makes camp so special to them.
What’s the story with camp names?
Shasta: At our camps, girls get to begin using a camp name when they become a CIT or WIT, which signifies they are taking on a new leadership role within the camp. It helps set a fun tone and it also helps because sometimes counselors have the same given name and each individual in a camp has their own camp name.
Bones: A camp name is almost like an alter ego. I think of it as the better version of myself. When you get a camp name, it is not only a little bit about you, there’s a responsibility to that. When I’m Bones, I’m on, I’m more outgoing, and as a staff member I’m responsible for a number of different things I don’t think about in my day to day life outside of camp.
Where did you get your camp name?
Shasta: One of my friends suggested Shasta, since I like the mountain and had traveled there with my family it seemed to fit. She had read it off a wall signed by past staff members. Shasta is a mountain in northern California it also happens to be the name of a character in one of my favorite books “The Horse and his Boy” from the Chronicles of Narnia.
Bones: I actually got my camp name as a suggestion from my friend’s mom. My friend worked at camp, and so we were hanging out trying to think of a good name. Bones was the suggestion, since I played trombone. I also really like fossils. I hadn’t ever watched Star Trek or the TV show Bones before I got my name. It did inspire me to watch them, and I think those are pretty good namesakes as well.
Did you attend camp when you were growing up? How do you think this impacted you?
Shasta: Yes, I went to three different camps between the ages of 7-9 including Camp Menzies in 1987. After that, I attended the Woodland Service Unit Day Camp first as a camper then as a program aide. I returned to Camp Menzies in 1993 as a CIT for three years before becoming a staff member. Camp changed my life. When I was in school, I was bullied and spent a lot of time hiding out in the library. At camp, I was accepted by my peers, had amazing mentors and discovered that I enjoyed teaching younger girls. I found the courage to talk to my friends (and eventually my family) about what was happening at school to get support with ending the harassment. I researched careers in the outdoors and chose to study outdoor education in college.
Bones: I didn’t really attend resident camp growing up. As a Girl Scout, I did PA events and troop overnights at Camp Fleming. My troop also went camping together, which was great. Considering the girls did a lot of the planning and we did tent camping, I ended up learning a lot of outdoor skills. It also helped me learn the importance of having things be girl-led because I remember those experiences much more. It’s helped me out in planning other trips outside of the Girl Scouts, and I definitely think about the environmental impact of camping more.
When did you first start working at camp? Tell us a little about that.
Shasta: I started working at camp in 1996 right after I graduated high school. I had been hired as an Assistant Unit Leader but when I arrived at camp the Camp Director pulled me aside and asked if I would be the Nature Specialist since I had interned in that position as an Apprentice CIT. I really enjoyed teaching Nature because I got to work with all the girls in camp and come up with different activities. My favorite things to teach as the nature specialist where geology, archeology, animal tracking and exploring the canoe lake with nets and magnifying glasses. I loved combining science with storytelling and still enjoy moonlighting as the nature specialist when needed.
Bones: I started working at camp in 2010 while I was still attending college. I needed a summer job, and my friend had been working at Camp Menzies for the prior two summers. She sent me the application, knowing that I’d probably enjoy it, and the rest is history.
What is your favorite part about being involved with Girl Scout Camp?
Shasta: I love being part of a camp community and doing my part to prepare girls to be the respectful and responsible leaders of tomorrow. I love being part of a place where girls and their counselors have a safe space to grow and develop. From new counselors learning how to comfort homesick campers, to a group of campers writing and performing their own skits, to girls supporting each other through initiative games to passing on the legend of Camp Menzies at campfire. I believe in the power of camp to change lives and want to give back in honor of all the mentors that helped me over the years.
Bones: I love being a part of the Girl Scout movement, and I love that working with Girl Scout camp gets girls outdoors. I still can’t believe my job is getting to be outdoors in nature and sharing that with others. Giving others an appreciation for the natural world is fantastic. I also like that Girl Scouts allows every girl to be themselves and there is something for everyone to do, no matter what their interests. I think that girls definitely need to be inspired to take the lead, to have confidence in themselves and that they feel like they can be the ones to make a change in the world.
In addition to Shasta and Bones, GSHCC summer camps include a diverse and multicultural staff including young women from South Africa, Colombia, the UK, Australia and Argentina…and of course, the U.S.
There is a full summer’s worth of fun and a lifetime of memories waiting for girls at GSHCC’s Girl Scout camps. Registration is now open for programs that include archery, horses, science adventure skills and beyond. Your Girl Scout can even bring her non-Girl Scout friends. To learn more about all the great things in store at Girl Scout camps visit girlscoutshcc.org/camp.