Aliex’s Acorn Scholarship

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For kids entering K – 6th Grade and wanting to attend Camp G. Peirce Webber. Scholarships recipients will RECEIVE ONE WEEK OF CAMP FOR FREE paid by Aliexandra herself. Application due June 1st, 2021. Application must be submitted with Camp G. Peirce Webber Registration form.

Two (2) scholarships will be awarded. One to a child entering K – 2nd Grade and another to a child entering 3rd – 6th Grade.

My name is Aliexandra Johnston and the YMCA community is my community.

I grew up with a good family, two-parent home and a little brother. We went to Catholic school and had the ability to engage in Y sports along with school sports and had the ability to attend summer camp. I had a great set of parents and was taught to have high morals, goals, manners, and to always pursue my dreams; however, all was not always rainbows and butterflies…it was 2009 when my parents told my little brother and me that they were getting a divorce—everything changed. It was the start of a stressful, chaotic, messy puddle of turmoil. A puddle I found myself grasping at every edge to try and pull myself out of.

Between secrets surfacing, unfamiliar faces, caseworkers and a whole lot of uncertainty, I felt lost and alone. I didn’t know who to reach out to and didn’t know how to help myself. It was a period of time that had me questioning my support system and questioning my place in this big bad world.

Overtime I found myself using school as a safe haven, a place I could hang out but still be productive. I joined a few sports teams and a couple of clubs, soon enough I was 16 years old and it was time to get a job. One day I thought to myself, “Hey, working at a summer camp would be pretty awesome! Sun, kids, games, s’mores! Sounds like a great job!” Not to mention I still had extremely vivid memories of my counselors, my friends, and all the activities I engaged in when I was a camper at all three Y camps: Camp Jordan, Camp Molly and Camp Emerson (which is now Camp G. Peirce Webber). How crazy that I could block out the memories of the divorce but some how I still remembered all the great and adventurous things I did at summer camp. It wasn’t until later in time that I realized that this one fact would play a huge role in my future.

Walking into the Bangor Region YMCA in 2013 for my interview, I was eager and excited but little did I know that this one interview would be a starting point for a domino effect, for a string of the greatest years of my life. Starting camp was daunting but exhilarating, I had no idea what this job would be like but I had the highest of hopes.

My first summer at CPW brought me friends of all ages—friends of my co-workers and friends of my campers. I had children who relied heavily on me, their faces would light up when they saw me arrive at camp, followed by hugs, and maybe a story of how their softball/baseball game went or what they were looking forward to that day. That feeling of being needed, belonging, and support was the first time I had felt like I was part of a community. It wasn’t until my second summer at CPW that my fate was sealed. I was a counselor for one of the older kiddo groups and really connected to them on a personal and social level. I was creative and different in the ways I connected to the kids and I believe that they found trust, respect and loyalty in the way I communicated with them. One of my campers revealed to multiple other people at camp that he wanted to take his own life. As my superiors were in the process of calling his caseworker, he asked to speak to me outside of the activity, so him and I went for a walk and we talked one human to another. The next day I was approached by this child’s caseworker and was told that if at any point in time said child wanted to speak with anyone he had permission to speak with me and only me, per his own request. At that point in time, my eyes swelled as I realized how much of an impact I had made on this child’s life. An impact that child would probably remember for the rest of his life. An impact that allowed him to trust me and use me as his support system, and allowed me to see how much my job mattered, how much these kids needed us counselors, how much love and caring there was to give in either direction.

I found myself returning to camp every summer, it wasn’t just a great “high school” job, it was a life-changing job that I wanted to be a part of. I would come up from college breaks and step right into the after school program at the YMCA during the school year. If they were short staffed, I was there, if they were overrun with paperwork, I was there, if they needed an extra set of eyes, I was there. Before I knew it the YMCA became my closest and most reliable safe haven. It became a home, a library, and a place to confide in some of my closest friends.

The positive influence I have on the children has brought me utter and complete joy, the smiles and laughter, the tears and growth have all shown me how absolutely pertinent it is to dedicate so much energy, love, and compassion into our youth. I have no shame in being a college graduate, 23 years old, and still working at summer camp. I find so much triumph and delight from establishing connections, educating, and supporting children.

I found my niche at the YMCA and I hope that generations after generations find theirs at the YMCA as well—to have a home and community and also a place of educating and helping the youth is so rare, yet so beautiful. We matter, we the counselors, we the directors, we the lifeguards, we matter and we matter because we leave a lasting impression on these kids, and to leave a lasting goofy, crazy, adventurous, fun, exciting memory of summer camp truly makes all the difference.

My name is Aliexandra Johnston and the YMCA community is my community and will stay my community. It is my passion and duty to give children an opportunity to experience the love, sense of self, and pillars of strength that the YMCA family has to offer. I am excited for the scholarship I have put in place, and am more excited to have an annual tradition of giving to these amazing kiddos.