Reflections from the Shores: Featuring our CITs (Part #1)

Kawaga Family,

As I shared with you in my most recent “Ty’s Take,” our CITs enjoyed a special, week-long canoe trip into the beautiful wilderness known as the Boundary Waters. It’s an annual coming-of-age experience for these boys in their final year as campers, shaping them for their future at camp and in life.

We asked the CITs to give us a single word that summed up their experience, along with a highlight and a lesson.

We also asked a couple of staff members to chime in. So, we’re going to bring you this in two parts. Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow…

Be Kawaga,



CIT: Jonathan Levitan

One Word: Appreciation

Highlight:  On Day 3, we canoed all day across Easign Lake before arriving at Ashigm Lake, where we took a short walk to an incredible waterfall on Cattyman Lake. Later that night, we were able to canoe out and witness our first full sunset of the trip before watching the full moon rise from our campsite.

Lesson: I, along with my group, learned a lot about appreciation. Not only did we learn to appreciate the surrounding wilderness, but we learned to appreciate our isolation, each other, camp, and the value of time. On Day 1, none of us had a deep appreciation, but Boundaries taught us all the true meaning of the word.


CIT: Joey Weiss

One Word: Perseverance

Highlight: Coming to the mapsite after a long day of canoeing and portaging to chill with the boys. Every person in the group had his own role in setting up camp. After camp was all set up, the bonding would begin and everything would be so relaxed.

Lesson: I learned that if you really want to be successful, you need to work hard. Taking the easy route does not work. Hard work makes the outcome more rewarding in the end.


CIT: Bryan Fisher

One Word: Initiative

Highlight: Sitting at a waterfall with some of my best friends. At that moment, I knew it was something I could never be able to experience again.

Lesson: I learned that life is not just about yourself. I learned that it doesn’t always matter what you want, because others may need your help.


CIT: Alex Cohen

One Word: Eye-opening

Highlight: Finishing a really hard portage through mud, because we each had to carry a canoe with a partner instead of doing a standard portage while climbing over rocks.

Lesson: No matter what you think before something occurs, it’s important to keep an open mind.


CIT: Jesse Blank

One Word: Grit

Highlight: Getting caught in a wind storm and not being able to get a campsite, so we all looked at each other and laughed for 10 minutes. (By the way, we got there after the laughter and wind had died down.)

Lesson: I learned how to work together as one unit and never give up on anyone no matter what.


CIT: Adam Glickman

One Word: Unforgettable

Highlight: Arriving at each campsite and seeing the new views. Every night brought new kinds of beauty that was awesome to see.

Lesson: Teamwork is key. When our group worked together, we got things done more effectively, which made the trip better.


CIT: Sammy Gerstein

One Word: Inspiring

Highlight: Watching the sunset with my best friends after a long, tiring day of hard work.

Lesson: I learned that you know who your most genuine friends are when you see them put your happiness and well-being in front of their own.

CIT: Max Feinleib

One Word: Unforgettable

Highlight: Every night when we reached our campsite and looked at the map to see how far we had gone that day. So rewarding and satisfying.

Lesson: I learned that — based on how tough the trip was at times — to appreciate all that we have at camp and in life.


CIT: Harrison Menaker

One Word: Humbling

Highlight: Open-water canoeing for hours upon hours puts into perspective the overwhelming presence of nature in our lives.The magnificence of the Boundary Waters made me more aware of the true power of nature.

Lesson: Be proactive rather than  reactive — being determined to better your surroundings instead of waiting for someone else to do it. I learned that you can turn any situation positive with a good mindset.


Counselor: Michael Sinclair

My initial reaction to finding out I would be leading a group of six CITs into the wilderness for five nights was one of pure pride, elation, and gratefulness.

My boundaries experience, like everything else to do with Camp Kawaga, is incredibly difficult to put into words. You don’t truly get it until you do it.

Like the campers, I expected many things: hard work, maybe a little hunger, fatigue, storms — and all these made their appearances! I was so anxious for these things that I didn’t have time to think about the wonderful times I knew we’d also experience. So, when they came (and come they did), it was all the sweeter. I saw the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen, many seemingly-endless lakes of glass water, and unforgettable midnight feasts of starlight.   

Earning these moments came only after the immense teamwork and conscientiousness shown daily by the group. Everything we did was a collective effort — with everyone equally responsible and reliant on one another.

We would wake by sunrise in the morning and spread the various duties amongst the eight of us, utilizing each other’s skills. Some of us would dismantle and pack the tents, some would collect the “bear hang” of food from the other side of the island, some would collect wood, some build the fire, some filter clean water, some cook breakfast, and some get the canoes ready to go for another adventure. These roles gave us a great insight into the true value of teamwork,  as each role was meaningless without the others. And, the CITs learned to fully appreciate each individual cog in the team machine as we would all share the benefits.

We would then glide across the water in a convoy of canoes following our compass and carry the boats on our backs over challenging portages right through lunch until finally docking on a new island at dusk. We’d then set up camp and feel a great sense of accomplishment, as we relaxed and reflected as the sun set in the west, to the occasional echo of a loon across the lake.

There was something so peaceful and therapeutic about traversing as a group through untouched wildlife for hours without seeing any other human life. The CITs now have a fuller appreciation of the tranquility of nature.

Asking the CITs to summarise their Boundary Waters experience in one word, I would hear: “Perseverance,” “‘Enlightening,” “Gritty,” “Fellowship,” and “Humbling” — only confirming the invaluable success of this annual Kawaga journey.

I will be eternally grateful for the challenge and honor given to me on this trip. Like the CITs, I can now calmly remind myself in any difficult situation in the future:  

“‘I conquered Boundaries.”