Senior Harper Stewart returns to Camp Foley as a first-year counselor


Courtesy of Harper Stewart

Covered head to toe in mud, senior Harper Stewart poses with a cabin mate after venturing out to a nearby swamp. Along with spontaneous mud wars, campers went wakeboarding, jet skiing and practiced their archery skills. “One of my favorite memories would be having a mud war. It looked like a scene straight out of ‘Shrek,’” Stewart said. “I had algae and mud stuck in my ears for the next week.”

After attending Camp Foley in Pine River, Minn. for three years as a camper, senior Harper Stewart returned this summer to work as an intern camp counselor.

“While being a camper, I had participated in the Leader in Training program, where you applied to help out with organizing camp events and such. I loved being a part of that, so being an intern at camp seemed like a logical next step,” Stewart said.

Stewart discovered Camp Foley, a co-ed, non-denominational sleepaway camp, in 2015 after hearing about it from a friend.

“The idea of sleepaway camp had always appealed to me, not to mention it was the closest I would ever get to living out my Harry Potter-style boarding school dreams. When my family and I first started looking into different camps, we were overwhelmed,” Stewart said. “But my older sister’s best friend kept raving about [Camp Foley] and how she adored it and wished she could go back. We sat down over frozen yogurt, and I just asked her question after question and seeing her love for Camp Foley made me fall in love with it too.”

Campers ‘age-out’ the summer after their sophomore year in high school, but Stewart’s camp counselor made her aware of the Octo Internship Program, which would give her the opportunity to return for another summer.

“You are in a weird state of being both a camper and counselor. Add impromptu chef and janitor onto that, and you’ve got an ‘Octo,’ or ‘Octopus,’ which is someone that does many different jobs all at once,” Stewart said.

Photo courtesy of Harper Stewart
Dressed in a striped apron, senior Harper Stewart prepares for lunch with fellow interns during a day at camp.

Stewart often found herself working from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m., but says the experience was well worth the work.

“The most rewarding part was seeing the girls in my cabin really bond and come together. It seems a small feat, but it really was quite miraculous. Nine girls from around the world–Minnesota, Illinois, Mexico–who all have such different personalities, managing to choreograph a dance to ‘Shake it Off,’ or doing a braiding circle, or staying up late their last night because they don’t want camp to end, is amazing,” Stewart said. “I was really quite lucky with the cabin I was in; seeing them come together made all the late nights and early mornings worth it.”

With another two weeks of camp behind her, Stewart wants to make sure others take advantage of sleepaway opportunities before they miss out.

“Being away from home for two weeks with strangers in a beautiful place really forces you to go for what you want and try new things. Whether it be wake surfing in sparkly tights or trying advanced paintball for the first time, going away to camp gets you in the mind-set of ‘let’s do it!’” Stewart said. “That attitude stays with you even after you leave, and really allows you to shed all of those inhibitions and doubts that sometimes can hold you back.”