I spent seven wonderful summers at Camp Coleman in Cleveland, Georgia. Every time I hear this song, I automatically think about sitting around a camp fire, swaying with my cabin mates and friends. But after spending a week in St. Louis at the Hillel Institute, the song has a much more profound meaning. Sure, it will always remind me of camp and the place where my Jewish identity began to form but I am now able to integrate it into my life 15 years later.
Before the Institute began, I participated in what was called NPI (New Professional Training). Here, nearly 50 new Hillel Professionals met and became well versed on the ins and outs of programming and engagement. In my opinion, the most valuable thing that one could learn from this week of intensive (and unbearably hot) training was the importance and necessity of your network.
Not only did NPI provide me with dozens of people I can call, e-mail or bounce ideas off of, but it also gave me individuals who understand my way of life. My job does not run 9-5 nor does it require me to wear a suit and heels. I work when students need me to work. Sometimes its till 11 p.m., other times its on a Sunday. I run around campus in shorts and Converse passing out fliers of upcoming Hillel events. And on a bad day, I get confused for a Freshman. The people I met at NPI are the ones who will understand this job at its best, its most stressful and who unquestionably agree that this is the greatest job on earth.
But it isn't just about the New Professionals. Hillel Institute allowed us to network and meet with other schools who share similar predicaments and problems. One of the lessons they hoped we walked away with was the that of finding a mentor. It did not need to be someone who worked for the same school as you, but rather a person you found could guide you through your professional journey of Hillel. I was fortunate enough to connect with many people who were able to offer insight and advice about some of the many facets of this job. After a week of feeling overwhelmed by an incredible amount of information, it was reassuring to know that there were people only a phone call away who could walk me through any situation and would never find any question too stupid or unimportant.
And so these song lyrics finally come full circle. What once started as a tribute to my many summers spent at Camp Coleman now defines the family-like foundation of working for Hillel. There is always somebody to call. There is always somebody to e-mail. There are always databases of ideas to browse through. In a time where your whole life is changing (graduation--moving to a new city---first job...hello---it's scary!) finding a constant is an incredible relief and an empowering thing to own.
Until next time,
This post was written by our new program director Jessica Davis. She can be reached at Jessica@UFhillel.org or follow her on Twitter @Jcdgators.