Junior Barri Seitz (left) standing on Masada in Israel after a sunrise hike. Photo: Barri Seitz

From spending a month at summer camp to traveling across the world, Pace students had phenomenal summer experiences, many of them being similar to one another. However, these experiences were seen differently through the eyes of each student.

Her dream about a foreign summer abroad came true for junior Barri Seitz this year. She participated in Alexander Muss High School, a study abroad program in Hod HaSharon, Israel. For seven weeks, Seitz lived on their campus, taking classes like Jewish History and Israeli Studies and going to beaches in Tel Aviv. “I learned so much about Jewish and Israeli history while also making amazing friendships with fellow Jewish American teens from across the country,” said Seitz. During her trip, she traveled all over Israel, to the Dead Sea, Jerusalem, the Negev Desert and more. She described the most meaningful part of her trip as being in Israel after the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Life in Israel is so different from what the American media portrays, and I’m grateful to have learned how to dispel lies about Israel.”

Senior Jason Tapper also participated in a summer program in Israel. He traveled with the North American Federation for Temple Youth, a Reform Judaism youth movement, and Camp Coleman, which is based in Cleveland, Georgia. For 25 days, Tapper stayed in hostels and kibbutzim all over Israel with 32 kids from Camp Coleman and 60 kids from other camps. He traveled to Tel Aviv, the south desert, the north and Jerusalem. “I learned a lot about the history of the land and state of Israel and a lot about the Israeli Palestinian conflict,” said Tapper. He enjoyed seeing the “culture of Israel and how Israelis live their lives.” The most meaningful part of his trip was spending sleeping under the stars in the desert. “I loved that experience because it was so quiet and there were amazing views,” said Tapper. “I got to do a lot of self reflection and bonding with my friends.”

Moondance Adventures is a common travel company for teens to visit locations across the world during the summer. Their website states, “We believe that the most impactful adventures require getting outside of our comfort zones and away from our hometowns…these are the environments and individuals that inspire us to live in the moment.” 

This summer, Junior Camille Caton traveled with Moondance to the Hawaiian islands for two weeks. She spent the first week in Kona and the second week in Kauai, participating in activities like surfing, sea kayaking and hiking. Through difficult hikes, she learned that “even if something seems super hard, just push through because you have so much fun along the way,” said Caton. She was also scuba certified, one of the biggest challenges of her trip. “I learned to get out of my comfort zone by because I had to go through hard training to prepare for open water diving.” She also helped the locals in their botanical gardens, which was the most meaningful part for her. “The environment is extremely important to the Hawaiians, so knowing we had helped them with that made the experience even better,” said Caton.

Freshman Quinn Culpepper also participated in Moondance and was given the opportunity to travel to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for two weeks. He went whitewater rafting for three days, and he slept on the beach. “The best part of Moondance was the connection to the people I made,” said Culpepper. He continues to keep in touch with a few of his friends from the trip and would like to travel with Moondance again.

Sleep away camps are a significant part of summer for students, including Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) Camp Thunderbird, a residential summer camp for kids 5-15. Their website describes that “When someone comes to YMCA Camp Thunderbird, they can expect unforgettable adventures, a safe and nurturing environment and a place to be their best self.”

Sophomore Vivian Kohn describes Camp Thunderbird as heaven on earth. “It is a place where you can be yourself and meet your best friends,” she said. Kohn loves all of the connections that she has made through camp, whether it is people her age, older or younger. Camp Thunderbird offers activities including water skiing, sailing, archery, dance, sports and tons more. Kohn enjoyed having more freedom as the oldest camper group and becoming friends with the staff. This was Kohn’s last summer to spend a full month with all of her friends because the counselor in training (CIT) and staff experience is very different from a camper’s. “It is so simple, but my favorite memories from this year happened when we would share stories,” said Kohn. “These friends come from all over the country and can last a lifetime. The sunny shores have a magic about them that is unmatched.”

Senior Eddi Aronson attended Camp Thunderbird as well as a CIT for one month. Then, she joined their staff for two following weeks. “It was initially hard to adapt because the environment is so different from my daily routine during the school year, but it was the happiest I’ve ever been in my life,” said Aronson. Camp Thunderbird provides a unique atmosphere and is a home away from home for both staff and campers, like both Aronson and Kohn. “It shapes my mentality and helps me to connect with who I really am,” said Aronson. The most meaningful part about camp for Aronson is the relationships she has made, and she highly recommends being a CIT to current sophomores. 

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