Michelle Oldford Chavez
Years on staff at BR: 2003- 2009
My name is Michelle Oldford Chavez and I was a counselor at BR for 2 years and a director for 3 years from 2003 to 2007. Trying to put to words the ways that working at BR shaped my life is difficult because it has become engrained in the person that I am. Thinking back now I realize that it was not only the experiences but the amazing women that I worked with. I felt a disconnect from people in high school and college, but would come to camp and thrive around other young women who were hard-working, smart, and motivated. Working at camp gave me a chance to develop an identity in an environment where it was a norm to be high achieving, organized, and friendly.
I am now an art therapist working in a major children’s hospital in Cleveland, OH. I provide kids (and their parents) who are hospitalized with opportunities to express themselves and process their medical experiences using art. I have a master’s degree in counseling psychology and art therapy, and I use skills that were developed and perfected at BR, in my career every day. Here are a few:
Flexibility and solution focused problem solving- It is so important to be able to think on your feet when you work in the medical environment. Things change constantly and no two days look the same. I’m not sure what teaches flexibility better than a little unexpected rain requiring changing the daily schedule of 120 campers, 50 staff and 90 horses.
Having an enthusiastic attitude- Being eager and willing to pitch in whenever and wherever needed. This is a trait that translates across any profession and is fine tuned working at camp. “Hey Miss Michelle can you go move poo hill?” “yup no problem sounds fun! “ “Tack up 10 horses in 15 minutes?” “Great! Can’t wait!”
Organization and efficiency- Its truly amazing to stop and think about what a team of camp counselors accomplish in a day. In the first hour of the day 120 campers are gathered and separated into riding groups. Breakfast is served and cleaned up. 90 horses are stabled and fed, then tacked up and by 9:00 am, 1 hour after the flag is raised, half the camp is on horseback and the other is engaged in morning activities. This could never happen in an organization that was anything less than highly efficient, with good communication, and tremendous teamwork. And that’s just the first hour.
At the beginning of each horse show Mr. D used to say, “In center ring you’ll find the best group of young people this country has to offer. This is their show. They designed it, practiced it all week, and are performing for you on horseback today. They will show you that the world will be in better hands when it’s in theirs.” BR girls are capable of changing the world and working at camp, among other women who will become the best lifelong friends, sets that in motion.