By Evan Traylor, GFC Alumni and President, North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY)
There is something truly special about 1192 Smith Lane, Bruceville, Texas. It is here that I spent three incredible and inspiring summers at the URJ Greene Family Camp learning about Judaism, creating unforgettable memories and friendships, and discovering the amazing power of Jewish summer camp. As I look back on my time at GFC, I have realized that all of my experiences during these three summers have helped in preparing me not only for my first year at the University of Kansas, but also in my role as NFTY President this year.
As I began my very first summer at GFC in Summer 2008, I was extremely nervous and anxious to begin my first Jewish summer camp experience. While most of the kids in the Melachim 2 unit had grown up together summer after summer at GFC, I was one who hardly knew anyone and couldn’t find my way around camp. At this point in my life, this was one of the biggest chances I had ever taken – and it most certainly paid off! My first summer at GFC allowed me to take a chance and explore new activities and create new friendships and memories.
In my second summer at GFC in Summer 2009 I entered a unit called Kibbutz, which featured living spaces without air conditioning, a kitchen to cook our own food and clean our own dishes, and opportunities for gardening, extensive time on the ropes course, and a three day camping trip. Over the course of the session, communication and teamwork were important in maintaining our Kibbutz community. This summer taught me about the importance of taking responsibility and ownership for myself, for my friends, and for the community.
Through all of these experiences, Greene Family Camp provided me with lessons to prepare for my first year of college and as my role of NFTY President. Learning to try new things and take chances inspired me to fulfill my potential in NFTY and become a candidate for NFTY President last February. I have also learned to expand my comfort zone during my time in college in order to create more relationships and explore new classes, clubs, and activities. My experiences on Kibbutz have provided me with valuable techniques to create strong communities in college and NFTY, and take responsibility for my schoolwork and the leadership of NFTY regional and TYG board members. My Avodah summer has inspired me to realize that my abilities and efforts in the KU community and in NFTY truly have a positive impact on people. I have also learned to value my education, both in my formal classes at KU and learning experiences within NFTY.
Through these three incredible summers, GFC prepared me to succeed and thrive in NFTY and in college. And it is good to know that I will always have a place to learn about life and to call home at 1192 Smith Lane, Bruceville, Texas.