Cheers to a Great 2021 Summer

We love appreciate hearing from our community so much. Thank you for all your kind emails, phone calls, and social media posts. This summer was a success because of all of us—together we can accomplish anything! We hope you enjoy a few of the accolades we received below.

I wanted to thank the Coniston staff for putting in the enormous amount of work I know it took to make this summer work around all the changing dynamics of this pandemic.  Our daughter got to do the service trip she has been looking forward to for over 2 years in addition to an incredible Sessions 3/4, and our son was back for Session 4.  While our 16 year-old daughter shed some tears today, she would not trade the bittersweet transition back into “civilian life” for all the world.  As cliche as it sounds, Coniston truly is a home away from home for them both, something they carry within their souls throughout the school year until summer rolls back around. I don’t know what you put in the lake water there but it is truly magical!!!

Also a shout out to the Service Trip counselors who created an unforgettable experience amid challenging weather conditions for our daughter who had not camped apart from her overnights at Coniston and LOOOOOVED it despite all the rain. Those kids bonded in their 11 nights beyond her expectations.

Thank you again for making this happen and have wonderful year!

—Camper Parent

Thank you to all the staff of Camp Coniston for providing our children a summer of laughter and wonderful memories and building friendships. Thank you for the great care you have shown to all our children.

—Camper Parent

I started Coniston at 17 and ever since that beautiful place has been so special to us, to our children, and now our grand girls! Thank you for taking great care of my three granddaughters this summer.

—Camper Grandparent & Alumna

Thank you to all who pulled off another Amazing summer for our kiddos big and small, and still navigating this never ending pandemic.
 
—Camper Parent

Thank you Camp Coniston for being a light of fun and hope for our kiddos during a difficult time. We know it was extra hard this year and we appreciate everything you were able to do!

— Camper Parent

Meghan Salvas Ship—K-5 Math Instructional Coach—Coniston: 1990-2004

How old were you when you started Camp?
I was 9 years old, 1990.

How were you introduced to Camp?
A family friend told my parents about Coniston and we were signed up to go together. At the last minute, they switched sessions and I ended up going alone that first year.

Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?
Assumption University-Liberal Arts/English (2003)
Northeastern University—Masters in the Arts of Teaching: Elementary Education (2006)

What is your current job? 
I currently work at Milton Academy in Milton, MA as the K-5 Math Instructional Coach.

How has your career journey evolved?
Interestingly enough, my first job after graduating from college was at a YMCA as an Aquatics Director. However, I knew I wanted to be a classroom teacher and quickly returned to graduate school to pursue my degree in Elementary Education. I have taught Grades 4 through 6 in Boston, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Massachusetts in both public and private schools. 

Beyond classroom teaching, I have served as a mentor to new teachers, am a certified CFG coach, and have done a great deal of curriculum development work across all content areas. One of my passions is the creation and delivery of professional development for educators, both within the school setting and at conferences across the county. I took advantage of every opportunity I could to serve as a teacher leader, which brought me to my current role as an Instructional Coach, supporting classroom teachers to hone their pedagogical skills, increase student engagement, and deepen their understanding of K-5 mathematics.

Did Coniston influence your ability to create this journey?
Without a doubt. The through-line between being a camp counselor and becoming an educator felt organic, so it is challenging for me to specifically identify how my journey was influenced. However, my experiences at Coniston working with campers of all ages, in a variety of situations, most certainly served as a solid foundation for working with elementary aged students. 

Working as Waterfront Director and LIT Director in my early 20s, provided me the chance to develop my communication and leadership skills. I was working with counselors who were working with campers, which has a direct influence on my current position—working with educators as they work with students.

Are there any skills or traits you gained at Coniston that you use in your professional life?
Growing up, Coniston was my safe place. I built relationships with my counselors and fellow campers that increased my willingness to take risks I wouldn’t have taken otherwise. This had a direct impact on my self-confidence. As educators, we know that in order for children to be successful they must feel safe in their learning environment. In order for that sense of safety to occur, educators must prioritize relationships with their students (and their students’ family) to cultivate a sense of trust. Relationship building is foundational in all aspects of my career. The relationship a student has with their teacher is the most important indicator for student success.

Are there any specific memories from your time at Coniston that are still impactful to you?
Having attended Coniston for 14 years and meeting my husband, we have countless memories that have impacted our lives. But honestly, dropping our daughter, Molly, off this summer (2021) for her first year at Coniston feels the most impactful. We are thrilled to be able to share such an amazing place with her and can only hope it impacts her life the way it has impacted ours. We have truly come full circle.

The Impact of Being a Coniston Tutor

We hope you enjoy the testimonials below from first time Coniston Tutor’s—the impact was felt by the entire Coniston Community. If you are interested in become a tutor or receiving services you can find more details at the link above.

My time as a Coniston Tutor for the New American community in Concord, NH was incredibly impactful. When I spent time with my tutee I wasn’t just helping him learn geometry and history— I was forging a real, genuine connection with someone who could not have lived a more different life than I have. We found small things to connect over (a mutual love of TikTok, pepperoni pizza, and knock knock jokes), but also talked about his life plans and career goals. The more time I spent tutoring him, the more acutely aware I became that this program is about a lot more than after-school homework help. Towards the end of the school year, my tutee would show up to our sessions excited to show me his grades on the homework we had worked on together. This translated into him being proud; not just of his grades, but of himself.

I would recommend being a part of this program to anyone and everyone in the Coniston community. It was a way to give back, to help others, and (most importantly) to connect.

— Anna Feins

Weekly tutoring sessions allowed my student to pass his class and avoid summer school, and  allowed me to connect with someone I wouldn’t otherwise have met. I felt great knowing I was helping someone who needed it, and it made a difference to him to knowing that someone who had recently been a stranger cared about him and his success. I would encourage everyone to try their hand at this program, even if they’re a little nervous about it — there’s nothing like that moment when a student understands something which had mystified them before! 

Thanks to YMCA Camp Coniston for putting this together, it’s such an important resource for the community!

—Charlotte Perkins

At camp we see social and emotional growth happening all the time. Coniston tutors has been a great way for me to connect that with academic growth during the school year! I love that camp can now support kids in many dimensions and year-round.

—Kathleen Moore

While setting goals together at the beginning of last school year, my student identified qualifying for the National Honor Society and finding new ways to practice photography as ambitions he aspired to achieve. Throughout the school year, he worked with the Yearbook Committee to take photos and even enrolled in an independent study course in photography. In the spring, we heard the fantastic news that he had qualified for, and been accepted to the National Honor Society. I am so unbelievably proud of what my student accomplished last year and feel very grateful for the opportunity to support him along the way.
 
Through the success and growth of the tutoring program, Coniston has demonstrated how its commitment to helping children and young adults grow extends beyond Lake Coniston and into the surrounding communities. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this program and am eager to see it develop in the years to come. The person I am today has been directly shaped by the lessons I’ve learned and the people I’ve met at Coniston. I’m sure other alums feel similarly. Serving as a tutor is one way I can give back to an organization I believe in and a community that has given me so much.

—Gray Kaegi
It can be hard enough during normal circumstances to provide effective instruction to students. During this past year especially, it has been harder than ever to provide many students with the assistance needed to conquer subjects which their normal curriculum may not teach them properly. I myself did not learn as successfully through my former middle school’s mathematics program, and it took self study to master many of my curriculum’s skills. Different kids learn differently, and it has been a privilege to support students through the Coniston Tutors program in navigating material with individually-focused lesson planning. My student gained confidence with mathematics, history, and time management; and ultimately he didn’t have to go to summer school because of all that we accomplished. Coniston Tutors is a remarkable opportunity to grant educational assistance to the camp community. I am thrilled to have been able to chip in to this amazing effort and give back to students who faced challenges similar to those I faced. 

—Nevan Hughlett

Tyler Bascom—Technology/Software—Coniston: 1997-2011

How old were you when you started Camp?
8 years old. 

How were you introduced to Camp?
When my family move to New London, NH from Glen Rock, NJ to be closer to family in NH and VT they looked into a summer camp for me and my cousin Jennifer Parmenter to attend together. Luckily Camp Coniston was right down the road from where we moved to. I was a nervous 8 year old in B1 and the rest was history!

Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?
I attended Plymouth State University for two years and then transferred to the University of  New Hampshire. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the Peter T. Paul School of Business & Economics; Business Administration and an option in marketing.

What is your current job? 
My current occupation is with a technology/software company in the Seaport district in Boston; Zerto. I’m a Manager of Sales Development. I’ve been employed with them for 4 years and 9 months.

How has your career journey evolved?
When I graduated from UNH, I wasn’t sure what I wanted do to. I graduated in 2013 and the job market was still tough after the Great Recession so it was difficult to find employment. After countless unsuccessful applications to jobs in Boston I feel back on Enterprise Rent A Car. I did my marketing capstone course with them my senior year, so I had established a close relationship with their HR recruiter and Area Sales Manager. I started off as a Management Trainee, was successfully promoted to a Management Assistant and finally a Branch Manager running a successful business for Enterprise. I was living in Portsmouth, NH at the time, and realizing I wanted more in my career I moved transferred to a branch location in Boston to apply and search for more lucrative career opportunities in the city. Again, I interviewed with half a dozen companies when I selected Zerto to continue my career.

Did Coniston influence your ability to create this journey?
100%—My success with Enterprise was through all the hard work I had developed with 5 summers on staff with Coniston.

Are there any skills or traits you gained at Coniston that you use in your professional life?
I was a part (and still am) of the Coniston Community for 15 years. 8 as a camper, CIT, and 5 years as a staff member. My 15th summer I participated in the 5th session—1 week camp. As a counselor I held basketball and tennis Director positions. All four sessions during the summer, I was a huge advocate for conducing a tennis tournament which was always a huge hit. My 5th summer on staff I was a co-adventure camp counselor with Beth Doucet. 

It wasn’t until I was promoted as Manager at Zerto and quickly became successful coaching and mentoring my team that I realized that I was becoming successful due to all the leadership skills I had gained at Coniston through the leadership of John Tilley and John McNair and all the other counselor and CIT leaders I had learned from over the years.

Are there any specific memories from your time at Coniston that are still impactful to you?
Too many to mention. The most significant was when my 2005 CIT group made it to the summit of Mt. Washington, we descended down to Lakes of the Clouds for dinner and then climbed up Mt. Monroe for sunset for highs and lows and to reflect on the trip with our leaders Zack Zimmerman and Molly Jepsen. After the silence of highs and lows one of the counselors (one of my counselors the year prior who I listed as a reference), Will Kavanagh, whom I looked up to tremendously pulled me aside and told me that Camp had lost one of my CIT recommendations and they reached out to him as a reference. It made my experience and helped propel my success over the next 5 summers. To this day I enjoy hiking back up Washington to Lakes and reading the journal entries from my entire CIT group and hearing how much that summer meant to everyone.

Returning a piece of Coniston History thirty years later

Alumni, Jared Reid shares a wonderful story about YMCA Camp Coniston and how a piece of history got returned to the rightful owner, Alumni, Kitter Spader.

After reading Kitter Spader’s spotlight piece in the Coniston Chronicle I began to think about a piece of history that may have been linked to him. I had heard that Kidder was the director of waterskiing before I arrived at YMCA Camp Coniston and I had heard about the famous waterski shows that were put on by their staff.  When I became the waterski director I was fascinated with the giant round plywood disk that the previous staff would ride on while sitting or standing on a wooden chair. There was also an early Burton Backhill snowboard that had been altered and made into one of the first ever wakeboards by screwing a waterski skeg onto the bottom of the board. 

At the end of 1995 camp season I asked everyone at camp Coniston who the board belonged to and no one really knew. I decided to acquire the board as a piece of snowboarding and Coniston history.  This wooden snowboard was my prized possession. It traveled around the United States with me from Boston to Virginia Beach to Seattle and then back home to Western Massachusetts. It was going to be the focal point of my future mountain house.  

The alumni spotlight got me thinking about how Kitter Spader may have been it’s original owner. When I brought my two children camp for drop off I saw who I thought was Kitter from the picture in the magazine.  I went up, introduced myself, and inquired about a piece of Coniston history that was left at camp over thirty years earlier.  I think he was amazed that the board still existed and that I knew where it was.  I asked him if he wanted it back after all this time.  He said yes.  Two weeks later at camper pick up we met up again.  He told me some of the stories from when he got the board and when they used it at camp.  The abandoned board was back to its original owner and someone I knew would treasure it as much as I had.

Twas the Night Before Camp

Alumni & Camper Parent, Kelly Condon shares her story about the night before Camp!

‘Twas the night before Camp and the big boys were packed, They fell asleep counting their Class A claps, Wondering if they’ll get bottom or top bunk beds, While questions re: boating tests danced in their heads…

And what are skits like at opening campfire? Who do you think will climb the tower higher?  When do we eat? What’s the Camp food like? How far away are the overnight hikes We really nap at siesta? Or just read and write letters?  Will we like ropes, archery or riflery better? How will we remember where to go and when? What if we’re not placed with a friend How will we deal with missing home?! Do we walk to the bathroom – at night – alone?! And why do they call the bathroom the college –

Slow down boys, Mom will drop some knowledge… They’re nervous (I’m jealous;) all hows? And whys? But it will feel like Christmas in July.

Small World Connections

When starting a new job, it’s always nice to see a familiar face – even if it has been quite a while. During the start of her internship, Liz Morris noticed a name on the attendee list she recognized immediately: Lindsey Bromm! Lindsey was one of Liz’ campers in G3 back in 2011. The two Conistonians caught up about that summer – including the cabin photo where everyone wore a towel on their head – and lots of summers since.
 
Lindsey is a rising senior studying business at Indiana University Bloomington and is interning with CVS Health’s Wellpartner group in CVS-Caremark. Coniston taught her how to “get comfortable with the uncomfortable” and make meaningful friendships. Her favorite Coniston memory was running through the dining hall to Eye of the Tiger as a West Coast CIT. 
 
Liz is currently an MBA student at the Tuck School of Business and interning with CVS Health’s PBM Strategy & Innovation Team. She credits her time at Coniston with innumerable experiences in problem-solving, going out of her comfort zone, and leading teams that prepared her for roles in health care. Her favorite camp food is a tin foil dinner cooked at Flume.

Parker Olson—Entrepreneur—Coniston: 2003-2017

How old were you when you started Camp?
8 years old. 

How were you introduced to Camp?
My brothers, Brenden and Kyle attended before me. We initially heard about Coniston from the Lenson Family.

Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?
I attended the University of Minnesota where I studied finance, entrepreneurship, and  neuroscience.

What is your current job? 
I am the founder and CEO of Forij

How has your career journey evolved?
Radically… I started my career in a management consulting role, but quickly found that I wasn’t going to be happy without a creative outlet where I had full autonomy.

Did Coniston influence your ability to create this journey?
100%—I attribute much of my creativity, drive, and out-of-the-box thinking to my development that happened at Camp!

Are there any skills or traits you gained at Coniston that you use in your professional life?
Being a Camp counselor forced me to become a truly resourceful problem solver and taught me how to effectively work with others of different backgrounds and ages. Helping children navigate new experiences away from their parents while managing group morale and relationships with other staff members requires balance.

Are there any specific memories from your time at Coniston that are still impactful to you?
Too many to share. Working with the youngest children, it was awe-inspiring to watch them evolve over a few short weeks. Often their first time away from their parents, they must discover themselves and begin to form their identities for the first time. I still chase the high of fostering these experiences.

Howie Kalfus—Judge—Coniston: 1980-1991

How old were you when you started Camp?
11 years old. 1980-1991; Camper 1980-1983; CIT 1984; LIT/junior counselor (whole summer) 1985; Cabin counselor 1986-1988 (archery staff); Program Director 1989-1991.

How were you introduced to Camp?
My parents had some friends, from my father’s time in the Air Force, who lived in Claremont, NH.  They’d heard about Camp Coniston from their children’s friends so they told us about it.

Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?
I attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where I studied music.  After that (and a gap year where I lived with three other former Coniston staff: Peter Twadell, Lael (Lambert) Jepson and the late Denice (Brigante) Choiniere in Burlington, Vermont), I attended Seton Hall University Law School.  I should also note that, after law school, I lived for a couple of years with another former Conistonian, Rick Hutchinson.

What is your current job? 
I am currently the presiding hearing officer (judge) for the Vermont Judicial Bureau (VJB).  The VJB hears all types of civil violations including traffic, municipal ordinance, fish and game, low-level environmental, boating, underage possession of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana.  I cover the entire state going from county to county (like the circuit judges of old).  I also spend roughly 20-30% of my time covering superior court, most often juvenile court.  This includes child abuse and neglect (including termination of parental rights), delinquency and truancy cases.  

How has your career journey evolved?
I began as a public defender in Vermont’s biggest county where I represented indigent defendants in misdemeanor and felony cases as well as parents and children in juvenile cases.  From there, I went to work as an assistant attorney general representing the Vermont Department for Children and Families.  Most of that work involved prosecuting termination of parental rights cases when parents were unable to resume parenting their children.  After that I spent a few months in private practice handling a domestic (mostly divorce) and criminal caseload.  That wasn’t a good fit, so I left for a job representing the Vermont Department of Public Safety (DPS).  DPS includes the Vermont State Police, Emergency Management, Fire Safety, the Vermont Criminal Information Center and the state’s crime lab.  There I provided general counsel to the Commission of Public safety and the Department’s employees.  Most of the time was spent working with the State Police.  In 2011, I was appointed to be the VJB’s fifth ever Hearing Officer.

Did Coniston influence your ability to create this journey?
Without a doubt it did!  It was at Camp Coniston where I learned what it meant to become responsible and to handle whatever work is thrown my way.  As a sixteen-year-old, there where times when a co-counselor would be on a day off and I was responsible for 10 or 12 six- and seven-year-olds.  Along with ensuring their safety, I was responsible for keeping an eye on their health and hygiene, their emotional wellbeing and their entertainment.  Not only did this give me the skills I needed to problem solve, it gave me the confidence to go out and learn new skills at every turn in my academic and professional careers.

Are there any skills or traits you gained at Coniston that you use in your professional life?
I became more compassionate as a result of my time at Coniston.  This has helped in all my law-related jobs but has probably had the greatest impact on my current job.  Whether I’m imposing a fine on a motorist, sentencing a criminal defendant, ruling on a request for a restraining order or even terminating a parent’s rights to their child, the ability to show compassion can soften a blow or at least demonstrate that I’ve listened and that I care. 

Are there any specific memories from your time at Coniston that are still impactful to you?
Every one of them. There is still no greater view in the entire world for me than looking over the lake and the surrounding mountains in the moonlight.  Thoughts of vespers and chapels still make me smile and become a bit teary.  I can smell the dining hall and hear both the old bell in the dining hall and the big bell by the waterfront as if I smelled and heard them this morning.  I consider my camp friends to be among my closest.  While we’re all over the country, I still think about them all regularly and try every day to channel their competence, their work ethic, their demonstrations of love for people and the environment and their overall decency.

Kitter & Gordie Spater—Entrepreneurs—Coniston: 1978-1994

How old were you when you started Camp?
We both started when we were 8 years old.

How were you introduced to Camp?
Our neighbors from Chester VT, the Masses (Amy, Andy, and Cathy) all went to Camp Coniston. Our parents owned a business in town and worked 6 days a week, in the 80s there weren’t a lot of supervised activities for kids to do in the summer, so camp was an awesome option.

Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?
Kitter:
BA – University of Vermont – Studio Art and Anthropology and MID – Pratt Institute (Masters of Industrial Design)

Gordie: Studied Economics and Political Science at the University of Vermont and then went on to specialize in business with an MBA.

What is your current job? 
In 2003 we started a pet products company together called Kurgo Dog Gear. Kurgo was focused on creating gear that makes it easier for dogs and their owners to get outside and enjoy adventures together. We created car products for dogs (seat covers, safety harnesses, etc.) and a full range of outdoor gear like backpacks, running harnesses and lifejackets for the dog. Kitter’s primary responsibility is user-based research, product design, manufacturing and marketing. Gordie oversees the business operations which includes managing their team in Salisbury, MA and selling to our customers such as Petco and Petsmart. 

How has your career journey evolved?
K
itter: When I was a kid, I wanted to be a Lego designer and run my own company. Although I have had a number of varied jobs – I’ve been a ski instructor, prep cook, a graphic designer, and started a few companies –  I have always come back to the essence of this childhood dream of being engaged in design, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Gordie: I started my career in NYC doing advertising. It was during a work weekend at Coniston that I determined I needed to move out of New York. I moved to Sunday River as the Marketing Director and then to Boston to business school. Since I graduated I have helped to found three companies.

Did Coniston influence your ability to create this journey?
Kitter: As with many of us, my first job was a counselor at Coniston. The early experience provided me with a solid understanding that a job can be tough, fun and fulfilling all at the same time. This early experience has guided me in making a company that had purpose for the people working there.

Gordie: Coniston gave me the confidence at a young age to be myself and try new things. Camp Coniston was one of the most formative experiences of my life.  

Are there any skills or traits you gained at Coniston that you use in your professional life?
Kitter: Leadership, creativity, adaptability, pivot, make it fun. It was always been part of my camp experience to make sure that the campers and staff had a good experience. This has stuck with me whenever making a product, working with clients, managing people and making sure the end consumer is happy with their purchase.

Gordie: I am pretty good at meeting new people and getting along with them. Seems cabin life is a perfect training ground for my job at Kurgo

Is there a specific moment or example from your career that you used these skills or traits?
Gordie: When we started Kurgo I literally had to go door to door selling our products and dealing with all the different types of customers I ran into. Meeting cabinmates on the first day of the session was pretty good training for those early days at Kurgo.

Are there any specific memories from your time at Coniston that are still impactful to you?
Kitter: One of the lifeguard training tests was to hold a brick over your head and out of the water for 2 minutes. At that age I was a sinker and couldn’t for the life of me tread water for two minutes with a brick over my head. I learned that sometimes you need to adapt and pivot, I held my breath for two minutes instead of treading water. Oh, I also met my wife, Erica at Coniston.

Gordie: I loved Dirty Night, it was a license to laugh a lot and play in the mud.