Even through the Zoom screen, Zaden Stout’s energy, enthusiasm and joy are clear as we talk about camp. Zaden is a Junior at Glacier High School in Kalispell, and is passionate about theater, manages the soccer team, and thinks he may want to be an author someday. He came to camp in his Tween years, but he says he honestly doesn’t even remember much about it. In his middle school years Zaden tried a couple other camps, none of which provided what he felt like he was looking for. As part of an active youth group at Epworth UMC in Kalispell he says when he was old enough to try Senior High Camp he decided to give it a shot. “I went back to Senior High Camp and it was something I didn’t even know was possible. It was so loving…I felt so welcomed. When I went to Rising Leaders that is when in really did click with me…that was my happiest thing in the whole summer, my favorite thing.” Zaden had found a new home away from home. “That was one of the best decisions I ever made, doing Rising Leaders.”
At Senior High as a Freshman Zaden says the counselors won’t even let you begin to feel left out or like you don’t belong. A couple really stood out as individuals that made sure as a newer face at camp Zaden was being welcomed and also pushing his own internal boundaries. “Watching the stars…I thought that was going to be so boring! Just sitting there! But I’m so glad I did that. Look at the stars, sit and think. It wasn’t just about having fun, it was about truly understanding who you were as a person. It was more about calming the soul”
There aren’t that many places that we can easily be our authentic selves, especially as teens and young adults, but Zaden feels that camp is not only one of those places for him, but camp was also the place he discovered what it was actually like to feel that way and realize “people like me, when I am just being myself!” That has carried over into the rest of his life, giving him the confidence to live life outside of camp more authentically.
“I’m trying to come into the world and this school year with that mentality,” he says, “that ‘campish’ mentality” Zaden now looks forward to counseling in Middler and Senior High in the future, to share those same life lessons with younger kids. Already serving at Tween, he is also excited to move up to mentor older campers, and help them make the same revelations. He hopes for the rest of his life: “I never want to leave!”