Youth Forward Scholarship 2017 – Sam and the Paddleboard

Name: Jake Murray
From: Marblehead, MA
Grade: jjmurr14@gmail.com
School: jjmurr14@gmail.com
Votes: 0

Starting
a new week as an instructor at paddleboard camp for kids is like
opening a pack of baseball cards: you never know who you are going to
get. You hope for the
allstars

the kids who cooperate and listen, and you cringe when you get the
rookies –
the
campers
who have attitude or don’t listen. Sam
fell
into
the latter. The difference between a pack of baseball cards and the
kids at camp is that with baseball cards, you can always buy another
pack, whereas at our camp once the week has started, the kids are
there for the duration.

Sam,
a ten-year-old beginner paddleboarder, had a unique personality that
was wacky and, at times, untamed. “Grandma, where’s my phone? How
am I going to survive without my phone? This place is boring,” Sam
ranted to his grandma as he walked into camp. There was a communal
sense of dread shared amongst the counselors upon hearing
his
irritating
remarks.
A noticeable sigh of relief emanated from the other counselors when I
agreed to be Sam’s instructor. I felt up to the challenge, but soon
reality set in as I witnessed Sam’s first action at camp –
threatening a fellow camper with his paddle. After persuading him
that slashing another child’s throat was not in his (or anyone
else’s best interest), I took Sam aside to try to see if individual
attention would do the trick. I calmly and compassionately spoke to
him, encouraging him to share his feelings. During this conversation,
I discovered simply that Sam was lonely and looking for attention
.
I discovered that the right approach to a problem is the key to
solving it. To salvage my short-lived career as a paddleboard
instructor and for my own personal growth, I knew that my strategies
to transform Sam from a problem camper to a more cooperative, happy
one were an incentive for everyone.


I
concluded that if Sam could receive attention from his peers in a
positive way, it would stop him from acting out. The next time we
went paddling, Sam continued his protests, but instead of berating
him, I had a new tactic: turtles. Sam adored turtles, so when I
yelled, “There’s some turtles over there” his whole attitude
changed. His eyes lit up and he paddled over to me, exhibiting
perfect technique on his board. I told him that if he could paddle
well enough to cross the pond, then he could go to “turtle haven.”
Not only did Sam display his exquisite paddling, but he also taught
other kids in the group the fundamentals to improve their skills. Sam
was thrilled that other campers wanted to experience “turtle
haven,” and felt proud that he facilitated the group’s speedy
arrival there. One character trait was altered and everything else
seemed to improve because it aligned with Sam’s, as well as many
others’, incentives with the goals I had for the camp.

Sam
was a success story. As much as I taught him about paddleboarding,
keeping a positive outlook, having fun, and persevering to attain
skills, he taught me many invaluable and enduring life lessons. I
continued to use different strategies, similar to the ones I used
with Sam, on other campers and even parents throughout the rest of
the summer. As a leader and role model, I learned a great deal about
working with people, and now I seek out collaborative opportunities,
not only at work but also with my peers in and out of school. I
recognize more the need to align incentives and goals in college so
that I can better deal with diverse
viewpoints
in discussion, group work, and life. To be a functioning member of
society, one has to be adaptable, resilient, tenacious, and tolerant.
Sam was the springboard from which I strengthened my own character
development, and we both benefitted from our mutual bond.


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