Written by Joshua Bishop, original article can be found here.
I am writing to you to inform you of my recent, once-in-a-lifetime experience at the 2019 National Youth Science Camp (NYSCamp), which is held annually in Camp Pocahontas, West Virginia. My name is Joshua Bishop, and I was exceptionally fortunate to represent the state of Utah at the NYSCamp this year.
I initially applied for the NYSCamp with the expectation that it would resemble several other STEM-based summer camps I’ve attended in the past. I thus expected mildly interesting lectures and cursory introductions to a variety of scientific disciplines. (I also expected luxurious living accommodations.) Thankfully, each and every one of these expectations was overturned and surpassed in the best way possible.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the diversity of lecturers and presenters, and remarkable intellects of each. Their primal passion for scientific innovation and research was both refreshing and inspiring!
Their lectures — both intensive and enjoyable — were designed for individuals who truly had the potential to become great scientists, and they did a wonderful job of convincing us of that, while also kindling our interests in a wide variety of disciplines.
While shamelessly endeavoring to convert us to their respective fields of study (neuroscience was especially popular this year), they proved to each of us, beyond any doubt, that we can be successful in any field if we pursue what we love.
Another thing I loved about the NYSCamp was the aspect of spontaneity. We were not given a calendar or itinerary beforehand, and the multitude of activities scheduled for each day were posted only the night before.
Every day was filled with innumerable pleasant surprises and unique opportunities, with the common thread of wonderful fellow delegates and budding friendships binding the experiential tapestry into one cohesive whole.
At the conclusion of each remarkable day (during nighttime cabin meetings of 20-30 cabin mates) we declared our “firsts,” or new experiences; some of mine included mountain climbing, caving and kayaking.
Although the educational aspect of the NYSCamp was unquestionably phenomenal, the two things about camp that stood out to me the most, and which will surely remain with me the longest, were the passionate people and profound conversations.
Never before had I lived in an environment of such broad intellectual and cultural diversity, nor will I (probably) ever again. It was thoroughly gratifying to discuss cultural, political, scientific, and religious ideals with such a representative group of individuals and to learn from their unique perspectives and experiences.
It was also very inspiring and reassuring to see that there are many in the rising (“millennial”) generation who do indeed care about the futures of their countries, and of the world, and who are developing personal ambitions and plans regarding the security and improvement of that future.
Shortly before leaving for West Virginia, I was convinced while reading a book on the four types of love (one of which was friendship) that I had never really known a true friend in the sense therein described (friendship/love because of a shared interest, where the friends serve as mutual catalysts for the development and exercise of that passion).
With that new perspective, I made a commitment to myself to return home from the NYSCamp having made “true friends,” and I am pleased to say that I succeeded. I established many strong and potentially long-lasting relationships with fellow science-oriented individuals which I am sure will prove to be valuable — both professionally and personally — throughout the remainder of my life.
The people there and the discussions they facilitated were truly the best and rarest quality of camp. Everyone at camp truly cared about learning; each seemed to me to be an honest seeker of truth, and willing to discuss, disagree, criticize and compromise in the pursuit thereof.
Indeed, every one of my favorite moments at camp involved some sort of group discussion, whether a late-night cabin meeting, staffed Religious Studies Discussion, afternoon seminar, or casual conversation in front of the Laura Dill Dinner Hall while awaiting the beloved lunch bell.
Having returned home after the too-short camp just this past Saturday, I am already suffering the drawbacks of intense nostalgia and homesickness for the beautifully rustic and isolated Camp Pocahontas of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.
The routine conversations and daily experiences back home feel so transitory and superficial in comparison to those which filled my waking hours just a few days ago; nevertheless, I know that I am a new, improved man.
I will carry the NYSCamp with me wherever I go, and work to re-establish (or at least approximate) its spirit in every personal and professional relationship moving forward.
I go now with an inspiration to seek out individuals like the delegates, “Staph”* and guests I met at camp, and to endeavor to effect meaningful and lasting change in the world in the same way that they have done and will surely continue to do.
I express my profound gratitude to the state of West Virginia for its dedication to the NYSCamp and contribution in making this superlative experience possible for me and others like me, especially those less privileged and of more difficult backgrounds than myself.
I am grateful for its continued support, and I commit to join in that effort, so that the best and brightest of the upcoming generations may enjoy this singularly life-changing experience as well.
NYSCamp 2019 UT
*not misspelled; a traditional NYSCamp spelling