Friday, November 9, 2012

An Interview with Jimmy Lorang, Former Camp Counselor

Earlier this week, I got to meet up with former Kiwanis Camp counselor, Jimmy Lorang, to talk about his experience with Kiwanis this past summer.

As I was walking from my English class to Seattle's Best Coffee, where I was to meet Jimmy for the first time, I was suddenly overcome with an embarrassed anxiety: I did not know anything about Jimmy, including what he looked like, and I assumed he knew as little about me. How was I going to know which guy was the one I was supposed to talk to? But I didn't need to worry; Jimmy was sitting at the bar-style counter along the window wearing a blue sweatshirt with the words “Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp” printed across the chest. “I almost wore the gray one with the tree on it,” he smiled, clearly showing his Kiwanis pride.

Jimmy is currently a senior at Portland State, where he is studying psychology. When it came time for him to choose a senior capstone project, he chose to be a counselor at Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp after browsing through a list of capstones because it had been recommended to him by a few people and because the idea of a hands-on program appealed to him. “Writing grants isn't really my thing,” he says, “and Kiwanis seemed more rewarding. You get to make an impact on people's lives.” Not to mention, of course, that the two-week duration added to the appeal.

However, the brevity of MHKC became irrelevant to Jimmy, who had the opportunity to go back for two more sessions after he had finished his original session as camp counselor. Despite all of the fun to be had at Kiwanis, being a counselor comes with many challenges and responsibilities, and occasionally people are sent home because the challenge is too great. Watching people leave early is unfortunate, but it worked out twice in Jimmy's favor; He got invited back to sub in for a couple of counselors. “I got to experience Kiwanis more than any other counselor. It was great. I felt like an honorary counselor or something.”

That isn't to say that Jimmy did not have his fair share of fears and challenges to overcome. Going into the program, one of Jimmy's main concerns involved personal care. He was worried he might overstep his boundaries or make a camper uncomfortable, fears which were augmented by difficulties in communication between counselor and camper. However, Jimmy quickly learned to move past these obstacles so that everyone could enjoy the camp to the fullest extent. “This is an opportunity for everyone—campers and counselors alike—to have fun and be themselves without any judgment,” he says.

Throughout our conversation, Jimmy often repeated that MHKC truly is fun for everyone involved. Just as often, though, he stressed the seriousness and the responsibility of being a counselor, noting that the most important quality a counselor should have is patience. He says that it's also necessary to be flexible and innovative, but if you don't have patience and you aren't willing to step up to help people have a good time, then perhaps Kiwanis isn't the program for you. “It's not a cakewalk,” Jimmy smiles. He affirms, however, that feeling of accomplishment at the end of camp is extremely rewarding. Going into Kiwanis, Jimmy admitted, he wasn't sure if he would be a successful counselor. He wanted to be, of course, and was very interested in learning from a psychological perspective. He soon learned, though, that the best way to experience Kiwanis Camp was to forget all the labels, diagnoses, and papers and just get to know the campers for the people they are. Once he did that, he was able to create stronger bonds with his campers, Eric, Tori, Sully, and Michael, with whom Jimmy says he had a great time.

The sky was growing dark, and I, wearing a dress, was getting chilly, so Jimmy and I drew our conversation to a close. When asked if he had anything else to tell people who are thinking about being counselors, he thought for a moment and concluded, “Kiwanis had a profound impact on me. It changed my focus from psychology to special education. The personal growth I experienced...that was huge for me, and the connection with others was phenomenal. I felt a great sense of accomplishment.”


  1. I wish every prospective student would read this interview. It captures so much of what camp is about. Thank you, Shelley and Jimmy!

  2. Yep that will happen at Kiwanis ;) Thanks Shelley and Jimmy! Really nice article!

  3. Wow, What a great article. I had no idea of a law like that. Great work Shelley Jeff P