When I was growing up all I wanted to do in the summer was to go to sleep-away camp like all of my friends; but as a ballet dancer I was expected to go to summer long ballet intensive programs instead.  I was never much into the whole summer intensive scene because it mostly meant ballet boot camp: four ballet classes a day and a 30 minute lunch break. There was always a huge bustle at dance class about which summer programs you got into and which prestigious dance school you were planning to go. When my friend Monica told me about a camp she attended that offered all types of dance classes as well as music, theater, fine art and sports, I was instantly interested.

I spent four summers at Belvoir and to this day they are still the best summers of my life. Belvoir provided me with the structure and excellent training I needed to become a better dancer, but it also allowed me to expand my interests and try new things. Although I was a dancer at the time, I am now a photographer finishing my final semester at Parsons the New School for Design. My first digital photography class was at Belvoir and now it is my passion. Belvoir is a place where girls go to improve upon their craft, but also is a place where they can step outside their comfort zone and discover new interests.

I was fortunate to work at Belvoir as a counselor this past summer. It was the final week of camp and I volunteered to fill in last minute. I was scared to come in at the tail end of camp because, although at one point in time I called Belvoir home, I was now an outsider. I soon came to realize that wouldn’t be the case, when my new campers all ran down the hall to welcome me, eager to show me their bunk and tell me all about themselves. Sprinkled among the unfamiliar faces were old staff members and campers who all remembered me. And of course my best friend from camp Sarah, who was now the camp nurse, took me under her wing.

It was an eye opening experience to go back to Belvoir six years after my cottage summer; to see girls with such incredible talent perform in professional quality productions blew me away. Coming back to camp gave me the opportunity to reflect on my childhood and truly realize how lucky I was to be given the opportunity to go to Belvoir. Belvoir introduced me to some of my closest friends, provided me with unforgettable experiences and helped in shaping me as an artist and as a person. 


Stefanie Li