Area Girl Scouts gain survival skills, work experience

Alexa-Kate McClarty (left) and Ky Miller display their Camp Tallchief shirts from their summer working as camp staff.

Ky Miller and Alexa-Kate McClarty put their Girl Scouting experience to work this summer as staff members at Camp Tallchief, a resident camp near Sand Springs. 

Miller, an 11th-grader at Ada High School, worked as a counselor, leading younger girls through camp activities. 

“It taught me to be a better leader, and it exposed me to situations where I needed to be the responsible adult and where I was the one to look up to in the children’s eyes,” Miller said of her experience.

McClarty, an 11th-grader at Stonewall High School, was just short of the age requirement when camp began, so she was offered options for staff positions in which she was not directly responsible for other girls. She chose to join the kitchen staff, preparing meals for campers each day. She enjoyed the camaraderie of the kitchen staff and gained valuable work experience, but she is also looking forward to next year when she can be a counselor.

Camp Tallchief, operated by Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma, offers girls from kindergarten through 12th grade programs in crafts, swimming, horseback riding and boating, as well as several programs in the arts, sciences and technology. As part of their staff orientation, the girls received training in first aid and CPR, waterfront safety, and other skills related to camp programs.

To qualify for their positions on the camp staff, both girls completed a six-week Counselor-in-Training program over the previous two summers. In the CIT program, the girls practiced outdoor survival skills, including primitive camping, knot tying, fire building and various methods of cooking over a fire. They also learned leadership principles that would prepare them to take on the roles of camp leaders later.

Lydia Howeth, a 10th-grader at Byng High School, completed the CIT program this summer and looks forward to joining the camp staff next year.

McClarty said she has wanted to be a counselor since she first went to resident camp in second grade, and she sees her current experiences helping her move toward her future career. 

“The idea of girls being trained to work with younger girls looks something like teaching. And today, teaching is among my top three career choices. So I thought I could explore a new way of teaching as a counselor,” she said.

While Miller, McClarty and Howeth recognize the value of the life and work skills they have gained in the CIT program, what they value most is relationships.

“My favorite part of going to camp,” Miller said, “is meeting people during my stay. I know I have made friends for life being at camp.”

Some of those friends include international staff members. This summer seven staff members from Australia, the United Kingdom, Colombia and Brazil worked at Camp Tallchief, along with others from across the United States and Girl Scouts from Oklahoma who have grown up spending summers at Camp Tallchief.

That long-time relationship means a lot to McClarty, who has learned “that just a couple girls in a small room can turn into your sisters and help make the camp the wonderful place it is.” 

She is proud to see “how the CITs have matured into wonderful staff members, sharing the joy of kids having fun at camp.”

For information about Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma, to join or to register as a volunteer, visit www.gseok.org. For information about local Girl Scout troops and opportunities, contact Sarah Peters at sarahlpeters@gmail.com.

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