(We will be featuring a series of guest posts on the MTC blog over the coming months. This post is contributed by Tracy Preston, MTC parent summer 2014 & 2017.)
When I was a teen in 1970s London, I dreamt of going to one of the Camps in the USA that I had seen in the movies. Camps looked fun, inclusive, and full of activity and new friends to make – usually set on a lake in a beautiful location. At that time in my life – I would have been lucky to get a summer day to trip to a beach in grey old England, and my dreams of camp life in America – would remain just that – dreams.
Fast forward nearly 40 years and I was a mother of an adolescent boy – Robert, and young daughter - Kate. My son was just completing his GCSEs in London and was nearly 16. He had struggled during his school life to find his place in friendship groups, and often felt marginalised which led to a sense of insecurity. A bright and engaging boy – he had become withdrawn, unmotivated, depressed, and a little lost.
I heard about MTC from a colleague at work who had been sending his own son for a few years, and he encouraged me to Google it. When I found the MTC website – it triggered a memory in me of my own dreams and what a place like Maine Teen Camp might mean to adolescents in the 21st Century. I talked about it with my son and he also had a look on the website and the decision was made. Nicky was so helpful and supportive in helping me find a way to pay for this wonderful opportunity and the whole process was easy and clear.
In Summer 2014 we travelled as a family to Porter to drop my son off at camp. He was nervous – as was I, but from the minute we drove through the entrance the nerves evaporated. Not only was MTC the place of my childhood dreams – but now it was Robert’s dream too. There by the cabin – set on a beautiful lake, Robert was greeted by a group of welcoming and friendly people. He walked off with his new friends without a backward glance, to enjoy what was to be a transformative experience in his young life.
When we collected Robert a few weeks later, he was very emotional to be leaving. He was changed. He now believed he was worth something, that he had valuable contributions to make to society, and that he could do pretty much anything that he wanted with his life. His confidence had soared, and I felt that I was returning back to London with a young man full of hope and excitement for his future. To say that he loved MTC, the counsellors and the campers would be an understatement. As a parent I felt that the place had literally saved him!
It was therefore without hesitation that I sent my daughter this last summer to MTC when she reached 16. By this time – her phone and social media addiction had become troubling on many levels, and she was beginning to live her life online. One of the main things that I loved about MTC was the no-phone policy, and I felt that Kate needed to experience a different life. Like Robert, she came home transformed and feeling that she had made connections with people that would be friends for the rest of her life.
I listened with delight as she told me in her stories from camp that she was trying so many varied activities and that she was trying something new on a daily basis. Changing slowly from being a fussy teen, she was becoming more adventurous and willing to try new things.
If I had to sum up the Maine Teen Camp experience – it would be this: A magical place, run by magical people, showing young people that magic still exists in the world in the smallest things, and that most of that magic comes from inside of them.
Thank you Matt, Monique, Nicky and all at MTC for contributing to my children’s development.