My Camp Story

CAMP CRIMSON Camper Experience

For those who don’t know, Camp Crimson is pretty much OU’s Orientation camp where incoming freshmen come for 3 days and 2 nights to experience the University, new friends and build lasting relationships that help them feel comfortable at OU. The purpose of camp is for the campers to leave feeling like they are not alone when they arrive on campus and know about the many resources and programs OU has to offer.

When  I went to camp back in 2016, I went to the Whoope-te-do session. I essentially got dragged into it by my friend who was going and I hopped aboard and said “Why not?” Her parents drove us up and the first thing I see is this group of people gathered in front of this giant inflatable tunnel in the shape of the Oklahoma Schooner.  These students were all wearing the same shirt cheering us on as we walked in. I’m not going to lie, it was quite terrifying at first, and some people didn’t even want to go through it. However, it was for many, including myself, our first taste of the excitement that was yet to come.    

(Various OU Small Group Leaders in front of the tunnel ready to welcome incoming freshmen). Courtesy of thousandsstrong.ou.edu

As the camp went on, I met a great arrangement of people in my camp group. But none stood out more than Brianna Rutledge. Throughout my time at OU, I always think back to Camp Crimson as my first time meeting someone that intrigued me in college. I took advantage of all the time we had to hang out and have fun like building boats, making t-shirts, singing, dancing, and a huge retro-themed party. 

The one thing I liked most about my experience is that I walked in and was terrified of people placing a label on me as just a student-athlete, thus I must have a careless personality and larger ego. Contrary to belief, I was embraced and the fact that I was running track and field in the fall wasn’t a huge deal at all. We we are the same, all just recently graduated high-schoolers looking forward to college and starting something new.

I always say if it wasn’t for Camp Crimson, I wouldn’t have met the biggest influence in my life in college, Brianna. Camp really brought us together, and that made the experience all the more memorable. It is safe to say that Camp Love, in indeed is a real thing.   

Pictured from left to right, top to bottom (4th Row Row: Alex, Hunter, Rugger, Seth, Brendon 3rd Row: Isiah, Grey, Miranda, Hunter 2nd Row: Mikaela, Brianna, Gabby, Sydney 1st Row: Evangeline, Jenna)

  Camp Crimson SGL Experience

As my freshmen year was coming to a close, many of my colleagues and friends advocated for me to apply to be an SGL (Small Group Leader). SGL’s are the 3 leaders of the group of campers that are the incoming freshmen’s first real contact and resource to go to when they need anything. Each group of SGL’s and campers are named after a building/street on the OU campus for historical and informational purposes. For me, the spring semester of my freshmen year was hectic. I was traveling for track and field and still trying to understand what I wanted to do over the summer back in Texas. I was stressed to say the least, so I didn’t apply. Brianna however did and gave me the details after her session as to how she felt and her experience.

She loved it and after hearing her talk about it, I knew that next year would be my time. So when it came time to apply, I tried my best to knock it out of the park. One of the coolest things about the process was finally meeting the Camp Crimson director Bridgette Castorino. So many people had said so many incredible things about her, and in the interviewing process, I got to sit and chat with her. She was as amazing as everyone said she was. She was welcoming and all around simply phenomenal.

https://twitter.com/IsiahIrby/media
Isiah Irby and Bridget Castorino in the park after SGL orientation.

Getting ready to be an SGL was…difficult. I put a lot of pressure on myself; after a lot of people ended up saying I was going to do a great job, that it was perfect for me and I was going to knock it out of the park…I guess I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. What SGL orientation taught me as I was going through it, is that not everyone is going to love camp, and that’s OK. Not everyone is even going to finish their degree at the University of Oklahoma, and that’s OK, but you can’t let that be a bad reflection on yourself. As long as you give all that you have to the campers, make genuine connections and have welcoming open arms to them, you simply can’t lose!

My Co-SGL’s were phenomenal. They were both people who cared about the campers and wanted to have fun. Taylor was a rookie (and track sprinter might I add) like me, and Katie was becoming an OB (A 3rd year SGL). They both made camp so fun and welcoming and we had such great ideas to bounce off of each other with and just a plethora of love to give the campers.

This year was also different, because we had so many early arrivals coming in and it was actually quite fun. We had 4 early arrivals and the couple of hours we spent with them and that time was magical. We got to know them better and have nothing but fun in a much more calm environment before everybody else arrived.  Jasmine, Johnathan, Ashley and Emily got a sneak peak of camp and I think they enjoyed it a lot.

When the time came for actual camp with the rest of the campers arriving, deja vu hit! Here I was, standing, screaming, yelling, blowing a loud whistle in excitement and cheer…scaring the CRAP out of these incoming freshmen as they come walking through the tunnel. It was a surreal moment that I got to take in, and some of them ran through happy as can be, and others ended up not going because the ‘spirit tunnel’ can be a daunting thing to experience.

Nevertheless, Taylor, Katie and I finally got all of our campers. All 16 of them! The atmosphere went from awkward hellos and gazing eyes to talking and singing in no time. Our group was named Brooks, and we indeed had the looks.

Image may contain: 19 people, people smiling, people standing, outdoor and nature
Brooks Family From Top to Bottom/ Left to Right. (Top Row: Will, Rhys, Andrew, Brandon, Nathan, Preston Middle Row: Isiah, Carley, Sydney, Ashley, Allie, Johnathan Bottom Row: Taylor, Maddi, Rachelle, Alyssa, Jasmine, Emily, Katie)

 

These group of outstanding people made camp the beautiful thing that it is. Our chant of Brooks with the Looks set to the theme of The Migos “Walk it Talk it” was the chant that everyone was shook by. Their ability to always ask questions, look around and take in the University, as well as simply becoming friends was something I wish I could relive over and over again. As an SGL, I not only wanted campers that cared, but campers I would connect with, and boy did I. Nathan I bonded over Naruto, Jasmine became like a little sister, Ashley, Will, Carley and I talked about band, and so on and so on.

Each and every single one of them were special and incredible in their own way, but what brought them together was their ability to understand that they became a family. “We don’t need that giant ring, we know we’re the best.” They would say as the ceremonies commenced and other groups one. Brooks family cared about having fun and still knowing we had the best chant!

But in all seriousness, as camp went on…I forgot they were campers, they became friends. Some on whom I got to see before school started and got to catch-up with. I can’t wait to see all of them thrive at OU and tackle every challenge and find themselves on campus. However, I couldn’t have done this alone. Katie was essentially the mother of the group since she had the most experience making sure everyone was counted for, and took her last go-around as an SGL in and felt every moment. As for Taylor, she had the energy of a locomotive and was exactly who our group needed, someone with non-stop energy, care and compassion that kept us on our toes.

As for myself, I always rely on comedic relief, small conversations and just general tactics of getting people to smile, and answer any questions needed. I tried my best to be a good medium in between Katie and Taylor and only my campers can tell you if I did a good job of that.

What makes this all a story though are the people the campers didn’t see as much as compared saw to us. So i’ll break down a history lesson. Chris Oven was our Orientation guide and how fitting he was at that position as we get to work together as Gaylord Ambassadors in the fall. Sophia Cadena was our liaison and her and I used to struggle together in Geo for non majors in a 9am lab.

As for our namesake, Teresa Turner, wow, just wow! Teresa was one of the first staff members I met my freshmen year who made me feel welcomed at OU, just apart of the athletic side. After I left track and field to pursue bigger things, it was only right that I finally got to close that chapter by giving back to her and making her feel welcomed as as our namesake. Everything seemed to click so well and made it’s way into a pretty interesting story. By the way, It only makes sense that I myself went to Whoop-te-do and then got to be an SGL for it too.

In Conclusion

This go around of camp was much better than my time as a camper, because I believed more and had much more confidence in what I could do. I’ve made so many friends, but more importantly, I got to do what I always love doing, impacting others. However it doesn’t stop there, walking them to their classes so no one is lost, eating out with them and playing all kinds of games and activities are what it’s all about. I can’t wait to go to a football game with them, especially Carley because I owe her that. Catching up on Naruto with Nathan is gonna be a blast, and seeing everyone together again for reunions and whatnot is what camp is all about.

I haven’t felt this kind of connection with a staff or group of individuals since band, and even then, that didn’t feel entirely real. However, hearing all the SGL’s stories of how they got here, how they dealt with adversity or didn’t feel like they did a good job, only to have us reassure them that they did is unconditional love.

Thanks to the Camp Crimson staff, orientation guides, liaisons, directors and especially our campers for making my rookie year as an SGL so memorable. I wouldn’t have asked for a better group of people to know.

Brooks Chant:

Brooks with the Looks

Brooks with the Looks

Walking in the cafe

and we whipin’ with the cooks

Brooks with the Looks

Brooks with the Looks

Put it in your books

Cuz’ we’re leaving you all shook.

Video of Camp: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZ2uwgFRbtw

Photos of Camp: https://www.facebook.com/pg/CampCrimson/photos/?ref=page_internal

Official Camp Crimson Website: http://www.ou.edu/campcrimson

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