In November, Aliyah Walls joined our year-round staff as the Program Coordinator for Quest. Aliyah’s history with Sherwood Forest began long before she ever accepted this role, though – Aliyah has only missed one summer of camp since she first came as a camper in 2002. We asked Aliyah to share more about her experiences throughout the years and her future with Sherwood Forest.
When did you first come to camp?
AW: The first time I ever came to Sherwood was in 2002, I was 7 years old. As soon as my sister and I were eligible, for camp my parents sent us right away.
What were your first impressions of camp? How have they changed over the years?
AW: Honestly, after my first 12 day session, as a mini camper I didn’t like it very much. I guess at the time I couldn’t really appreciate the experience. However, my twin sister loved it and wanted to go back for a second 12 day session (that was an option at the time). We did everything together, so I went back with her and from that point forward I was hooked. I would say when I was young camper, I just looked at Sherwood is something I did in the summer times. The older I got, I realized how special Sherwood this place is and how much I always wanted to be there.
What are some of the jobs you’ve had at camp over the years?
AW: I think the coolest thing about my experience with working at camp seasonally is I got the opportunity to almost work in every position. It taught me how to always look for towards my future, but appreciate the process. Some of my past summer roles have been as a Group Leader (3rd, 5th, and 6th grades), Sycamore Village Director, Leadership Group Leader, and Leadership Village Director.
What made you want to work at Sherwood Forest full time?
AW: I love Sherwood Forest’s mission. We are helping our kids see the potential in themselves so they can go out and do good in the world; I wanted to be a part of that. Sherwood Forest ignited a passion in me to want to start my career out in nonprofit working particularly with youth. I love Sherwood Forest so much, I just wasn’t ready to let go of such a special chapter in my life. I am so grateful a few positions opened up after I graduated – it was definitely was meant to be in my book!
In what ways did your experiences at Sherwood Forest prepare you for your current role?
AW: The biggest lesson Sherwood Forest taught me is how to work with different types of people. Everyone isn’t going to think just like you or share every experience, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find common ground. Being open to other’s ideas and opinions only benefits you more because you have the opportunity to learn from that person. I learned that lesson at camp, and it is something I use in the office today. I go into every meeting open to learn something new, and I usually do.
In your own words, describe your job at Sherwood Forest.
AW: I am the Quest Program Coordinator. My main job is to plan and implement year-round programming for grades 1-7. Some of the activities we do year-round are Christmas Caroling, St. Louis Zoo, and World Bird Sanctuary. My goal is to get year round programming for each grade level to look similar to the programming we do in the summer.
My job in the summer is Assistant Camp Director. This is my first summer in this role and I am very excited to take on this new challenge. I can’t wait to learn through experience and receive guidance from the Camp Director.
As a former camper, what unique insights do you bring to the Sherwood Forest team?
AW: I believe the most unique insight I bring to the team is my camper mindset. I understand the camper perspective and can give personal experience on what worked and what didn’t work. I can always bring back ideas and activities that have been lost in the years.
What do you enjoy most about working at Sherwood Forest?
AW: The thing I enjoy most about working for Sherwood Forest is that this organization gives so many opportunities to grow and learn as a young professional. They are always pushing us to get involved in professional developments, sending us to conferences/events, and allowing us creative freedom to try new ideas. My first day was information overload, but the thing I appreciated and remembered most that day was something Rachel told me “they don’t expect me to know my job right off the bat, and that it was okay to mess up.” As a person who has a fear of messing up, this calmed my nervous, I felt confident knowing I had support from my team.
Do you have anything else to add?
AW: I would not be the person I am today without Sherwood Forest. There is not a better place to grow up. Sherwood taught me so many life lessons and gave me a deep appreciation for the outdoors. I urge any parents on the fence about sending their kids to camp to take that leap of faith; you and your child will not be disappointed.