Value of a Manito-wish Experience – Spring 2021

SPRING 2021 TRIPPER; Continued from Page 5 Value of a Manito-wish Experience Mentee/Mentor Initiative

JOHN DOCTER M.S. Northwestern University, Fellow at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Health Center Coordinator Summer 2017, Far North Sectional / Nature Director Summer 2018, Nature Director Summer 2019

Manito-wish is always on my mind in one way or another.

Today, for instance, I was walking to the bus stop through the cold, snow, and noise of a Chicago winter. I was dreaming about my former summer commutes from the Leadership Lodge to Nash for breakfast along the lake, shining in the morning sun; walking through a grove of red pines, breathing in the heady scent, hearing streams of friends say “good morning” and “hello” as I walked by, and a couple of campers yelling, “Nature John!” and I, in return, saying something absurd like “What a fine day for nature it is!!!”.

Or, last week when I was off work and reading on my couch, thinking about when I had time off at Camp, I could go on a run in any direction for as long as I wanted, or how I could meet up with any number of friends for dinner someplace interesting, or how even laundry at Walleye Bob’s was somehow a fun event (until I accidentally broke a washing machine trying to freshen up my sleeping bag and thought I’d be out $1,000 – turns out Walleye Bob is a pretty forgiving person, thankfully).

Recently, Manito-wish has been on my mind for different reasons, though. As I move into a career, small thoughts and ideas have been cropping up in my everyday life, unprompted, and they are parts of Camp that I wasn’t conscious of. They are the value of spending time at Camp in my professional life.

I was asked recently in an interview about a time when I had to juggle multiple tasks at one time. I smiled and talked about how I had to manage 3-4 staff leaving for canoeing and backpacking trips on a day with thunderstorms; follow up on several cabin issues with two other staff members; attend a couple meetings with admin; check in with campers in my section to make sure they were doing alright and having fun; MC a trivia night for 150 campers, and also brush my teeth at least once. I also talked to my interviewer about school, but her eyes glazed over; It was clear that she had heard that answer a million times before. She lit up when I talked about Camp, because it was tangible and unique.

Here is another example. On essays for graduate school, I had to write about a time I worked closely with people who had different viewpoints than I did. Coming into Manito-wish without having previously been a camper there, I had no idea what I was in for. I remember sitting on the porch of Nash during a staff training breakout session and another staff member, who became a longtime friend of mine, challenged me on most of my assumptions (she still challenges me on most of my assumptions, although now there’s far more laughter involved ). During my time at Camp, I lived and worked with myriad staff, all coming from different places, sometimes different countries, with different viewpoints, but we’re all there for the same reasons, with a common goal. So, you work together, you hash out differences, you find a common ground, and you move forward.

Examples abound, but working at Camp taught me to be patient. It taught me to be kind. It taught me to put others before myself. It taught me to communicate effectively and succinctly. It taught me to prioritize…all skills that I use every day.

And, from my seasonal work experience at Camp, I’m still learning and growing.

I was given the opportunity to participate in Manito-wish’s professional mentorship program this past year and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity. Even outside of Camp, the organization is still providing support and value – honestly, more than I could ask for.

I was connected with a water systems engineer, Jess Brown, who was a camper from 1983-1988 and on seasonal staff in 1991. We had several meetings about career growth, opportunities, advice, and moving forward in life. These were professional conversations, yes, but they were also relaxed and friendly. I could ask for direct advice about how my resume looked, how I am coming off conversationally, and what potential next steps I could take. Jess invited me to send random LinkedIn messages if I had an upcoming interview or an offhand question. And, most importantly, given the times, he reassured me that I was on the right track, even if the job market wasn’t the best, which gave me the strength to keep looking and applying.

Talking about the value of Camp is hard, mostly because it would take a novel to describe all of the ways it’s helped me. What I will say, though, is that I am undoubtedly a better person for having spent time there, and I’m eternally grateful for the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met.



Summer Camp and Outpost participant 2009-2015, Summer Camp Staff 2016 -2018

I am a recent graduate from the University of Iowa, where I studied Civil Engineering. I have been part of the mentorship program and working with my mentor, Steve Weber, since the fall of 2019. With the help of Steve, we worked on strengthening many interpersonal skills that I first learned whilst at Camp as a camper and on staff.  We worked on interviewing techniques and strategies, as well as the best ways to prepare for upcoming interviews.

Throughout the program, I have had opportunities to speak with executives in engineering companies to gain valuable experience conversing with executives, as well as gain valuable knowledge of the engineering field from their perspective. In addition, Steve’s guidance helped me secure two internships while I was in college as well as a full time job post-graduation, in Chicago.

With the help of the mentorship program, I have not only strengthened and acquired skills and knowledge that I will use for the rest of my life; but also continue to have a mentor whom I am able to go to for career and life advice.

The mentor-mentee program is a unique opportunity for Camp Manito-wish staff because it offers different outcomes for each participant, much like Camp does.

  • For younger staff who do not have an idea of what their path is, the program provides someone who can help point them in a direction that will benefit them.
  • The program is great for college students because it pairs them with a mentor who is working in their desired field and can help make decisions for selecting classes that will benefit their future.
  • For older staff looking for full-time positions and/or internships, the mentors in the program offer career advice not limited to interview and resume help, as well as networking opportunities.

As with Camp, the more you put into the program, the more you will get out of it. I would recommend the mentor-mentee program to any staff member of any age to help them with their future career endeavors.



Summer Camp Staff, Fall Leadership Facilitator – 2017

My name is Bonne Matheson. While I grew up romping around in the outdoors, I didn’t discover the Manito-wish family until after I graduated from college. After graduation, I wanted to meet new people, breathe fresh air, and gain leadership skills by interacting with peers and youth in outdoor settings. I worked as a member of Summer Camp Staff and then as a Fall Leadership Facilitator in 2017. While I was only on staff for a short period of time, the experiences I had at Camp, and the connections I made in the Northwoods have greatly impacted my personal life and career direction.

After Camp, I went on to serve with the Peace Corps, and am now pursuing a career in Soil Conservation and Natural Resources Management. My career progression has been largely supported by Manito-wish’s mentorship program. My mentor, Steve Weber (1979-1981 camper, 1982-1984 staff, and 2016-present Board Member) helped strengthen my resume, better define my career goals, and gave me invaluable experience talking to professionals in the field. Not only did the mentorship program help me secure full-time employment and give me the confidence to build my career, but, it reinforced the importance of learning how to be a mentee so that I can better mentor.



Outpost participant 2016-2018, Summer Camp Staff -2019

I am a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Supply Chain Management & Marketing with a certificate in sustainability. I have been working with my mentor, Eric Lorenz (Board Member 2018-present), for a year now, and have had an overwhelmingly positive experience so far. Eric and I talk every month or so over the phone. I have received guidance on:

·         networking with connections ·         resume and cover letters
·         interview preparation ·         business skills


Eric has also given me the opportunity to talk with some of his connections in the renewable energy field, which is an area of interest for myself. Eric has relayed his experience and given me opportunities that I have found extremely valuable.

I personally recommend the mentorship program to anyone at Camp Manito-wish YMCA that wants to further their professional experience and career opportunities. The mentors really want the best for everyone in this program; it really is an amazing resource.



Steve Weber

Steve Weber 1979-1981 camper, 1982-1984 staff, and 2016-present Board Member

Jess Brown

Jess Brown 1983-1988 camper, and on seasonal staff in 1991

Eric Lorenz

Eric Lorenz Board Member 2018-present