The Summer Swivel Series highlights different teens’ changed plans for the summer of 2020. Follow along as we hear from teens from the Greater Boston area who are making the most of their new summer adventures.

My original plan for this summer was to be a camp counselor. Growing up, I had gone to overnight camp and various day camps and always thought it would be a great experience to be a counselor one day. What I was most looking forward to this summer was to be able to help campers have fun and enjoy camp like I did when I was younger. When we found out camp was still going to happen despite COVID-19, I was excited that I would be helping kids have a bit of a “normal” summer.

While camp is very different this year, it is still happening. There are fewer kids than usual, masks are required when we are near each other, there is lots of sanitization and there are countless other things that need to be done in order to keep everyone safe. Along with the camp, I have had the opportunity to volunteer with Yachad and its program YAYA Chavurah. On Sunday mornings, a group of 16- to 29-year-olds talk about certain topics and do various activities around that topic. Recently, I have participated in the calls about planes and Tisha B’Av. My favorite part is when the participants talk about their highlights of the week and the things they are looking forward to because it gives me a glimpse into the participants’ everyday lives, which makes it easier to form personal connections.

I have volunteered with Yachad once before, but not in this capacity. The last event I attended was the Purim party, where I was paired with a person near my age and we did arts and crafts and danced together. While I enjoyed that event, this experience is special because it’s a weekly event so I’m able to see everyone more often, which means it’s easier to make connections with everyone.

My biggest takeaway from this summer is that many things are adaptable. For camp, the staff and directors were able to make the necessary changes that were needed in order for camp to happen. The YAYA Chavurah groups are on Zoom, which makes the meeting more accessible, and you are able to learn something and see friends on a more consistent schedule. My advice for anyone who wants to get involved in either a camp or a group similar to those at Yachad would be to reach out and see if there’s anything offered virtually. Especially now, a lot of things have been moved online, so it’s even easier to attend and “travel” to programs and places that you can do from the comfort of your own house.

Samantha Oberlander is a senior at Marblehead High School and a 2020 JTI Senior Peer Inclusion Fellow. She is a member of Team Harmony and plays volleyball. Samantha is a member of and madricha (teaching assistant) at Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead. This summer, Samantha is a counselor at the JCC’s Camp Simchah. She also enjoys traveling and hanging out with friends.

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