My Ozo Experience & My College Applications

Written by: Randy “Grizz” Comensky

There is no doubt that the Camp Interlaken Ozrim program is deeply cherished. Those who have been ozrim often point to that summer as the one that impacted them most. Even through school, careers, and adulthood, the lessons learned and the growth that takes place during the coveted ozo summer has a beautiful and lasting impact. Campers have the opportunity to apply to be ozrim during the summer between their junior and senior years of high school.  The Ozo program is an immersive learning experience over the entire eight weeks of Camp where they learn the skills required to join the staff team, build confidence, and exercise their grit. After a successful Ozo summer, the teens are truly equipped to join our staff the following summer.  

When high school seniors are asked to write personal statements to share who they are with colleges and universities of interest, it’s no surprise that former ozrim frequently describe their summers at Interlaken. Occasionally, they share these essays with us, and we get an insight into how they describe their experience and what they learned from it.  Here are some of the things that the ozrim class of 2023 chose to share in their college admissions essays to highlight who they are and how Camp plays a role in their identity:

“Waiting all year long for my annual trip to Camp Interlaken has taught me patience beyond measure.”

“Perhaps the most valuable lesson my Camp community has taught me, however, is what an honor it is when someone shows you their authentic self.”

“After an incredible journey with my campers, I learned that the magic is in me; it never goes away.”

“I learned that sometimes all it takes is a hug and a smile to help brighten someone’s day.”

“In the woods of northern Wisconsin, there exists a magical place called Camp Interlaken. For the past seven years, I have spent my summers here, thriving and growing in an eclectic community of Jewish kids from all across the country. It is a respite from real-world problems and a beloved home away from home. Every summer, Camp Interlaken helps me not only get to know my community a bit better, but also myself.”

“One of the special qualities of my Camp Interlaken community is how accepting it is. While all the campers share in the practices and traditions of Judaism, we also go out of our way to embrace each other’s eccentricities and unique personalities. Being weird is cool at camp, and it is the perfect place not only to be yourself but to try out different versions of yourself without judgment. At Camp, I am treated like someone who has intrinsic value as a community member. It is the one place in the world where I get to be myself without reservation.”

“Some of my favorite memories this summer included planning and participating in Maccabiah – the theme was Scooby Doo! I also loved reading bedtime stories to my campers. It was a ritual they looked forward to each night.”

“About 45-minutes into our hike, the sky opened up and started to rain on my campers and me.  While they began to complain that they wanted to turn around as the first drops of rain fell, I felt euphoric.  “You guys, this is amazing! Don’t you get how lucky we are?” I shouted at my group of 20 sixth-graders. They laughed at me, making fun of my excitement. When I showed them how beautiful the raindrops splashing on the leaves of different trees looked and how tranquil the sound was, they stopped complaining and instead observed their surroundings.” 

“This summer, I learned a lot about what it means to be a counselor and I got to learn so much about Camp’s history and traditions. Ozo summer gave me a whole new perspective and a larger appreciation for Camp.”

“It was so interesting to be on the other side of bedtime rituals and teaching kids how to sail. I now love Camp even more because I have been a camper and an Ozo.”

“The Ozo program is all about learning and growing, and being able to do that alongside the people I’ve grown up with in the place that I am the most authentically myself is incredibly special.”

“I look back on my Ozo summer filled with love, happiness, gratitude, and a newfound appreciation for the family that we built.”

The Ozrim class of 2023 is filled with ruach, love, commitment to finding joy in the small things, and laughter beyond belief. They showed their authentic selves, made beautiful Camp Interlaken magic for their campers, and grew up so much during the summer of 2023. The Camp leadership was so proud of their hard work, and they are now joining a special group of Camp Interlaken alumni that are proud to call themselves Ozo ‘23.  We hope they will apply to work at Camp for many years and give our campers experiences that mirror their amazing experiences that they had the privilege of having while they were campers.