How Perlman Summer Became My College Essay

March 21, 2024
Alyssa Rossen

Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Class of 2024

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This past summer, I spent 6 weeks at Perlman Camp on ILTC and Kallah learning leadership skills and building my Jewish identity. Before I went I was super hesitant, especially hearing everyone saying that “Perlman was the best 6 weeks of their life” and a “life-changing experience.” People had said the same thing about CLTC, and while I enjoyed it, it didn’t “change my life.” Needless to say, before I went to Perlman, I never expected to feel “changed” when I left. I definitely didn’t expect to get a college essay out of it. 

One of the opportunities I had during Kallah was an elective called “Exploration of Place, Time, and Self,” which ended with writing poetry on each of those topics. When the time came to write a poem about a place that was meaningful to me, I knew I wanted to write about my experiences with Jewish sleepaway camp. Like many American Jewish kids, I’ve been attending Jewish camp since age 7. I’ve attended 3 camps and 5 different programs, each having a different impact on me. I attended my first camp, Camp Sabra, for 6 years. It was my first time away from home, and I had no choice but to come out of my shell in order to experience all of what camp offered. Following the pandemic, I attended 6 Points Creative Arts Academy (CAA) for 2 years. I spent my summers surrounded by people with shared passions and embraced my love for art. The past two summers, I’ve attended CLTC, ILTC, and Kallah. I’ve grown as a leader, improved my social skills, and learned a lot about my character and personal values. 

When I thought about all of this at Perlman, I had a beautiful realization: that it wasn’t necessarily the specific places that shaped me, but the magic of camp that did. I have been able to bring all of my skills home at the end of each summer and use them to better myself and my community. I am now president of my BBG chapter, an active member of my local Jewish community, and a friend to Jewish teens from all over the world. I ended up writing a poem that I’m really proud of that summed up all of my camp experiences, and I even shared it in the talent show at the end of Kallah. Before I left, I was overwhelmed by the thought of college essays. But, when I returned home from Lake Como and started applying for college, I knew then that my camp experiences had to be part of my application. After talking with my college counselor, we decided that it would be most authentic to submit the poem I wrote at Kallah as my personal statement that all of my colleges would see. I wrote a paragraph similar to this one explaining how the piece came to be written, and included the poem itself, hoping it would encapsulate the most meaningful experiences of my life. I’m still waiting to hear back from most of my schools, but I have been accepted into one school and invited to interview for their Honors Program. 

I am so grateful for my time at Perlman, for the memories I have, the friends I made, and the lessons I learned. I went into the summer thinking it would be fun and I would learn a few things, but never anticipated how much I would grow and reflect, and I share this story as a reminder that the most meaningful experiences can come from the most unexpected places. Maybe BBYO will become your college essay, too. This poem means a lot to me, and I hope it resonates with some of you, too.

Here’s the poem I wrote at Kallah, entitled “Where I’m From”:

I am from camp

From 9 summers spent away from what I know, creating a new home in a matter of weeks

I am first from Camp Sabra, my original home away from home

Finding shelter and peace in dusty cabins built from decades of memories

From tubing, tie dying, rained-out river trips, and long walks to the shower house

I am from the green-blue lake with it’s sandy shore imprinted by the feet of its newest relatives, the next generation of a camp family being created there

And I am from a dining hall shaking with the sounds of cheers so loud that voices once heard over a crowd are proud to be temporarily lost

I am from Camp Sabra

I am next from CAA

From hours spent perfecting my art

Singing, dancing, painting, acting

Creating new traditions as we built a community from scratch

I am from dorm floors and strict rules made for being broken

From laughter and tears and choreographed dance numbers during meals

Code blues, counselor gossip, and wrestling gym Shabbats

Sweat beading on our foreheads and soaking through our white dresses as we sing like there’s no tomorrow

I am from CAA

I am now from Perlman

From blueprint groups and limmudim

From pluralistic Judaism and more Jewish teens having more meaningful Jewish experiences

I am from Shabbos cake, top ten lists, and Havdalah around the Perlman tree

Table-shaking birkats, endless BBYO acronyms, and countless introductions of, “Hi, I’m Alyssa from Eastern Region”

I am from Perlman

I always am and always will be from camp

From summers of independence and self-discovery that have shaped me into who you see today

From highs and lows and everything in between

From friends becoming family and once unfamiliar places becoming homes

So if anyone asks where I’m from, 

I am from camp

Alyssa is a BBG from Shaina BBG in Raleigh, NC, and she has held a sloth twice!

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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