CH memory - Christine Stark
This is the story about how I found myself, somewhere on the camp road between Gund Hall and Faraway Pines at Camp Hilaka. I had just turned sixteen years old when I was away from home that summer, up in Ontario Canada on a scout canoe trip. It was 1966, and the huge bewildering world around me was in turmoil. Racial riots, The Vietnam War, angry politicians….. everything was changing. It wasn’t the first time I had been away from home. But I felt like I was a shadow of my parents, and was not yet an individual on my own. Who was I? I didn’t know…..
My parents were both extremely intelligent. My mom was valedictorian of her high school class, and never had the chance for college because World War II got in the way. My whole life, I never managed to beat her at Scrabble. My dad was an engineer and brilliant mathematician, part of the Greatest Generation. I knew that I had inherited brain power from them, but using it had eluded me. Don’t get me wrong. I got good grades, better than good. I had become a National Merit Scholar already. I was a girl who could do math. I played the piano like a protégé, and was also an oboist in the Cleveland All City Orchestra and a junior member of the Cleveland Orchestra. I didn’t exactly fit in with my peers. I was just way too smart for my own good and all those brains just got in the way. I had a sense of being a little different than a lot of my peers. Despite those positives, I often felt unsure of myself. I didn’t have a lot of ideas about where my life was headed. Who was I? I wasn’t too sure.
It was a beautiful summer day. Green woods, golden sun, blue sky. I’m not sure why I was alone on the camp road. Maybe on an errand, but I was alone, thinking about myself and my life. All of a sudden I felt like I had been hit by a bolt of lightening. It really was that dramatic. It was like the wide world, with all its excitement and opportunities, opened up before me. It was the first time I felt that I had life possibilities, and that I was more than just a scraggly girl. I’m not sure how that magic happened that day, but by the time I reached Far Away Pines, my head was in the clouds about all those possibilities. I felt like I was sitting on a powder keg, and I didn’t know who had the match! Somehow for me, scouting had a lot to do with helping me figure out who I was. Of beginning to understand what I was capable of, and how I could proceed into my life with excitement and anticipation of what was yet to come. Was it the lush greenery along the road? The brilliant sunshine? The wide blue sky? I still don’t quite get it. I don’t know. But something happened to me that day that changed my life. Something just clicked for me. I became a young woman with possibilities. The world opened up in front of me!
It’s strange now when I take that same walk through the camp. I can’t remember the exact spot that the bolt of lightening hit me all those years ago. But it still gives me a sense of completeness and accomplishment to walk that way. Its been a joy to rediscover my old Girl Scout camp again after all these years. Standing at the display board by Gund Hall one day, another visitor admonished me not to get lost if I was hiking that day. It made me chuckle inwardly. Lost at the camp??? No, I don’t think so. It was where I found myself on that long ago day.
Who did I become? In 1968, I applied to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State University and was rejected because I was a young woman. I graduated from Kent State University in 1972 as an Early Childhood Education Professional. I went on to earn four teaching licenses in Early Childhood Special Education and became a Developmental Specialist. I earned a Masters Degree. I became Director of the first Early Head Start Program in Cleveland when the grant I wrote was awarded $2.5 million dollars to provide services to eligible newborns and 0-3’s. I created three new Early Childhood programs over my career. I became a Girl Scout Leader. I took a social work license in 1998, and began working in an early intervention program for children with severe emotional and behavioral issues. For twenty years, until my retirement, I tried to make a difference in the lives of kids with big problems. It all started on the camp road.
Written by Christine Pekrul Stark, 2021.