Alumni Spotlight: T’Keya Chambers

“I didn’t realize how much working with children would inspire me and teach me about the important things in life.”

Read Time 2 minutes

This month we highlight an international staff alum who recognizes the importance of creating safe spaces for youth. Camp Fire Minnesota began welcoming international staff in 1969. We are excited to welcome 28 international staff members in 2024!

How can I describe the best job I ever had in just a few short words? I spent the summers of 2016 and 2017 at Camp Fire Minnesota. I was in my mid-twenties at the time and seeking adventure. I did not know what I was in for… and how those two summers would redefine my sense of self and change the course of my life.

I still remember my very first day arriving at Camp Fire Minnesota. I had never been to “the woods” as being an Australian, I am used to beaches and bush. When I set foot on the gravel, I took in the sights, sounds, and smells; I had never smelt such fresh air. It’s a strange feeling, but that’s the best way to describe it. I felt that, for the first time in a while, I could breathe clearly and deeply. From that moment on, I felt connected to nature, something I did not expect to feel or know I had been missing.

I had also never seen so much green. The grass and trees were so relaxing to wake up to every morning. The cold dips in the lake humbled us, but it was ok because the sun kept us warm. Rainy days called for creativity and imagination, with us running wild inside, despite the storms.

I didn’t realize how much working with children would inspire me and teach me about the important things in life. Like forming friendships, being honest, allowing yourself to be silly and playful, to be vulnerable and cry, to forgive and to be curious…about everything! As a young woman with an African American parent, I always wondered what life would’ve been like had I grown up in the USA with that part of my family. Camp Fire Minnesota allowed me to explore this part of my identity and community through the eyes and hearts of children. Being able to be a role model for young children, who saw someone who looked like them, working at camp, was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Every day, I looked forward to waking up the campers and knowing that on that day, all we had to worry about was having fun and adventure, and not the outside world. Knowing that for some, it was the best week of their life, and having them say that to you is a priceless gift, a feeling hard to replicate to this day. I wonder who they grow up to be, and I hope that as they grow, they have fond memories of the safe space and developmental support during their time at camp.

After Camp Fire I went on to become a psychologist and tutor. I hope to continue to create safe spaces, keep learning, and to keep being silly and never lose touch with my inner child. To any of my previous campers reading this, thank you and never give up on your dreams.