As the final bell rang with the sound of liberation, my friends and I unchained our bicycles from the rack and immediately peddled into the blazing afternoon sun, leaving behind a wake of empty lockers and hallways. Summer had arrived and the sweet taste of freedom was upon our lips. Days and days would soon be bookended with the rising and setting sun, which gave way to the lawless exploration of wooded expanses, forbidden hollers, and 7-Eleven parking lots. The nostalgia of summers past and the uncertainty of what lay before us was the necessary encouragement to peddle a little faster. Little did I know these sun-drenched memories would later shape my own philosophy of a summer well spent.
Truth be told, I never attended summer camp. Sure I longed for cannonballs into crystal clear mountain lakes, camp songs, awkward crushes, and sleeping under the stars, but the confines of our neighborhood provided a blueprint for endless exploration and self-discovery.
Every morning mimicked the same ritual. It began with donning my official camp uniform; a pair of cut off 501’s, Van Halen t-shirt, and a pair of well-loved checkerboard vans. My nutritional needs were met with a bowl of Trix cereal, and with the last slurp of the residual milk, I was out the door. Woodworking class was about to begin, and I didn’t want to be late. My pals and I converged on our driveway and we promptly pillaged the necessary tools from my father’s Craftsman toolbox, scavenged what wood we could find, and set forth on construction. We spent our afternoon cobbling together the neighborhood's finest jump ramp from old 2x4’s, a sheet of plywood we had dragged home from a construction site and fastened it together with nails from an old rusty coffee can. We dragged the ramp out to the sidewalk, popped a cassette tape into the radio, and grabbed our bikes. We spent evening jumping higher, longer, crashing, high fiving, and laughing until we eventually broke the ramp, our bikes, or ourselves.
As the sun began to set, the end of our camp day was upon us. Covered in dirt, grease, and sweat, we called it a day and limped home. My mother, who was filling the role as a camp counselor, medic, and chef, wiped the grime from my forehead, addressed any wounds, and handed me a stack of plates. As I set the table, we reflected on my day as I shared stories about my summer camp adventures. I always appreciated that my mom was in the periphery to keep me safe, while at the same time she allowed me space and freedom to be authentic, independent, and explore untethered agendas.
Whether you spent your summers attending a camp that was carefully curated with activities, traditions, and community, or you spent your summers as a feral adventurer of your neighborhood, summer is the perfect time to foster in our children the desire to step beyond their comfort zones and explore something boldly new. When creating a selection of summer opportunities here at McGillis, I draw on inspiration from the freedom I experienced in the summertime and listen closely to the stories passed down from those around me of the rich experiences they took part in and the lasting friendships they fostered. I think of your children: The anglers, nature lovers, craftsmen, scientists, artists, city dwellers, designers, and more. I hope we are creating pathways to their passions through influential leadership they know and trust. My greatest desire is that we have created pathways to swinging hammers, playing hours of Magic; The Gathering, fixing bicycles, learning how to skateboard, designing airplanes, or sleeping under big trees as if they were exploring these experiences from the vantage and safety of their own backyard.
Your Magpies, the pioneers of our Summer Excursions program, will write the chapters that follow, as they create traditions, friendships, and memories that will be the foundation of a summer well spent at The McGillis School.