Meet Talia

She grew as a leader through Camp Fire.

Guest post by Talia,
Junior Counselor (2019) and former Tanadoona camper

Read Time < 1 minute

Every youth walks away from Camp Fire programs with something different.

For some, it’s a fascination with the birds they saw during a hike or the tadpoles they caught during pond study. Others conquer their fear of sleeping outdoors or come away with new friendships. For Talia, 18 — her experiences at Tanadoona gave her the opportunity to grow as a leader. Read the post below to learn more about how Talia discovered herself as a leader through Camp Fire programs.

Talia read a version of this speech at Light the Way: A Night with Camp Fire Minnesota in November 2019.

My name is Talia Salinas. I am currently a seventeen-year-old senior in high school. I live with my mom and dad, two sisters, and my 4-year-old nephew in Bloomington MN. I stand here on this stage this evening to share with you my unconditional gratitude, love, and thanks. Ever since I was eight I was granted opportunities and experiences because of Tanadoona, and amazing people like you. I know for some this may be your first time hearing about Camp Fire let alone being here with us tonight, and I thank you for wanting to be a part of something that is changing, and forming lives.  

Standing here tonight gives me a chance to share the way Tanadoona has had a continuous impact on my life. A chance to show the outcome of what Camp Fire programs and how it will impact the lives of many kids, just as it impacted mine.  

Now being a senior in high school, I’ve been hit with the big question of  “what’s next?” left and right. Well, I am happy to share with you that the next chapter of my life will be doing a service to our country. By the end of next summer I will be shipped off to Timbuktu - more like South Carolina to complete basic Training for the United States Marine Corps. Now every time I am asked “what’s next?”,  I have an answer. Now the big question has turned into “What made you decide that?”.  

If you have ever been to Tanadoona, you know the gate at the front office.  That is where my journey started. I was eight years old, shy, and not the best at making new friends, but by the second day I knew I had a friend in each of the girls in my cabin plus some more.  That’s when I knew Tanadoona was my home away from home.  

Going to camp has shined a light on my strengths and weaknesses in many different ways. When I first arrived at Tanadoona, my biggest personal goal was the rock wall. I knew I wanted to make that climb to the top. The first time I  tried, I only got up the ladder. Fast forward to the next year —  I got past the ladder, and up the middle. Every single year I tried, I kept going — getting closer, a little closer… until, yes you guessed it, I made it!  

“Great things never come from comfort zones” someone once told me. That in order to grow, to thrive mentally or physically I would have to take the one small step outside my “comfort zone”. I knew my counselors, as well as new friends each year would catch me if I were to fall. They would be by my side cheering me on, and supporting me to get back up to try again. 

Year after year of falling, then getting back up, not just at camp, but in my own life as well — built my determination, persistence, courage, and self-confidence. Not to give up when something gets hard, or seems impossible, but to keep trying for that goal.  

When I was 16,  I started the Camp Fire Leadership Program, and during this past summer I completed being a Junior Counselor. This took me a giant step outside my comfort zone. It wasn’t all about fun for me anymore. I got the opportunity to run my own session — I was taking the knowledge and bringing what I’ve learned from being a Counselor-in-Training into action.  

I gave my cabin three activity options, they chose pond study which is when we walk down to the pond to catch, frogs, tadpoles, snails, and bugs living in that ecosystem, identify them, then release them gently.  

Now, the feeling when you catch a frog is unreal   not because they are impossible to catch, but because when a camper does catch one, their whole face lights up. Some of the kids in my group were from right here in Minneapolis. During that session, it gave them an experience they wouldn’t normally have. And can stay with them forever, just like it did with me. 

 It was frightening at first thinking about how I was in charge of a whole group eight to ten year olds, knowing I’m the one kids will run to if there is an accident, or something happens I am the one who takes initiative, and is responsible for what happens next. That summer as a Junior Counselor I learned what it means to be a leader for Tanadoona.   

With no uncertainty, I can say that Tanadoona helped me become the self-assured, determined leader I am today.

Over the years, Tanadoona encouraged me to establish qualities and characteristics by aiding me to keep growing and discovering myself as an individual. To answer the big question of what made me decide to join the United States Marine Corps: It was Tanadoona. The people and experiences that showed me to never give up — to always keep trying. 


In 2019, 6,000 youth participated in Camp Fire programs, 40% of whom received financial assistance.

Please consider making a gift to bring leadership and nature-based programs to even more youth like Talia.