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Joseph Boyle shares a summer story about working as a counselor at Camp Pow Wow.

When I started working as a counselor at Camp Pow Wow in 2008, I was nervous. The prospect of caring for people who couldn’t care for themselves terrified me. And the fact that I was an awkward, angst-ridden teenager didn’t help matters.

My trepidation ceased when I realized how rewarding the work was. Many of the campers face some pretty significant challenges, and helping them do the things most of us take for granted – hiking, playing kickball, drawing a picture – made them happier than anyone I’ve seen.

The job forced me to use my head in ways I never thought I’d need to, ranging from thinking on my feet when dealing with aggressive behaviors to handling the emotional intensity of spoon-feeding people old enough to be my grandparents. But as I was confronted with these situations, I found myself getting better at finding solutions. A dead battery in a motorized wheelchair would be a crisis for most people, but after two summers on the job, I could handle it no problem – all I needed was a manual wheelchair, a pillow, some duct tape and a few pool noodles.

By the time I left in 2012, I was a completely different person than I was four summers previous. Camp Pow Wow helped me grow up.

“Counseling Maturity” is party of the essay collection, “True Stories,” which appears in the 2016 City Guide issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find the May issue on newsstands beginning May 30, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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