If you’re from Long Island and are involved in the arts to some degree, there may have been a time where you have head of the summer camp USDAN, or have been a USDANite yourself! If you haven’t, then you’re probably wondering if I’m speaking of something in an alien language. As far as I’m aware, I’m one of the only USDANites at Saint Rose, and I’m more than happy to share the awesomeness that is USDAN to everyone willing to listen – err, read.
What is USDAN, you ask? Well, USDAN is short for USDAN Center for the Creative and Performing Arts. It is a summer camp that focuses mostly on the arts. It offers classes in music, art, theater, and dance. It also offers classes in fields like chess, creative writing, nature and ecology, and swimming, recreation, or tennis. Sounds great, right? Try not to be too jealous of how cool this camp is.
For the past 8 summers, I have had the privledge of attending USDAN as a camper and as an employee. I was lucky enough to recieve a scholarship from the Suffolk County Music Educators Association (SCMEA for short, also referred to as All County) for the summer of 2006. That summer was a very difficult one for me personally, and the community at the camp gave me something that I really needed – a family. The beautiful thing about USDAN is that everyone at that camp is bonded by their love of the arts. I was able to share my passion for music with people who were just like me, and it was wonderful. Some of my friendships that I know will last a lifetime originated at USDAN. This camp enriched my childhood that summer and every summer that I attended as a student.
For the past two summers, I worked at USDAN as the first Safety Counselor! Sounds exciting, right? In reality, my job was to escort students around the camp to where they needed to go, which was mostly the bathroom and nurse.While I did enjoy the job I had, as I grew more into an educator (thanks to the Saint Rose Music Education program), I realized that I wanted to use different skills and work with children directly. I was fortunate enough to become a Discovery Counselor and was able to work with children in the Discovery program.
What is Discovery, you ask? Well, the USDAN website puts it quite nicely here. My definition: I get to play with a group of awesome kids all day, discover new things with them, and help them grow. More specifically, I got them off the bus, sang in chorus with them, did fun activities with them, helped them change for swim, ate with them, and did art projects with them.I got to work with seven other Discovery counselors and had two amazing bosses (and let’s just be clear, these are the best people on the planet).
The best part about this job was I was able to work intimately with 24 amazing children. They each presented their own challenges, but they were all so loving and genuine. Before this summer job, I was very nervous about my upcoming experience as a student teacher. But as the summer progressed, I realized that not only do I love working with these kids, but that I’m good at it. I developed classoom management skills that can only be done in the field, and I developed relationships with my kids that will (hopefully) last for a long time. I am so excited to watch them grow as they continue to come to USDAN. In my heart, they’re my babies, and I love them dearly.
In conclusion, USDAN Center for the Creative and Performing Arts is my home away from homr (other than Saint Rose). The people at this camp genuinely care about you and support you, and I am so grateful to them for everything they have given me throughout the years. I only hope that, as the years pass, I can continue to give back to this camp with as much love and dedication as I have been. I love USDAN – plain and simple. And I can guarentee that anyone else who has experienced USDAN to some degre will say the same thing.
If you would like to learn more about USDAN, feel free to check out their website. If you’re like me, then you’ll definitely “Lose yourself for a summer, and find yourself for a lifetime.”
Happy Summer 🙂