Thankful for My Experiences as an Atzma’im Counselor

Ben Weiner, Atzma’im Counselor and Capital Camps Intern

I became aware of the Atzma’im/inclusion program’s existence at Capital Camps only in my 10th grade summer. I believe that that speaks volumes to the incredible job that Atzma’im counselors have done and will continue doing to allow their campers the ability to gain independence and help support them, all while ensuring they never feel singled out.

For the past two years on staff, I have been an Atzma’im counselor for several campers requiring vastly differing ranges of support. There is no better feeling than seeing your camper be accepted, included, and appreciated by their cabinmates no matter their physical, emotional, or intellectual disability. Through my work as an Atzma’im counselor, my camp view has completely shifted. Not all campers love dancing in a loud Habimah/central area or can handle silent prayer on Saturday mornings. Although these were staples throughout my camp experience, the Atzma’im program is about providing campers with equitable accommodations to best support their needs while also supplying them with a meaningful and enjoyable Jewish experience.

There is no one-size-fits-all model for Capital Camps and the Atzma’im program is the perfect image of that. All campers gain a better understanding of how to support those different from themselves and gain inclusion skills that can be found nowhere else. Since my involvement in the program, I have volunteered with several disability inclusion programs at Clemson University. Inclusion starts with Capital Camps but it most definitely does not end there. I’m forever thankful for my involvement in the program and I can’t wait to see what camp experiences are forever impacted this summer as a result.