Nature Hero Spotlight on Camp Staff
In spring, when Monarch butterflies leave their Oyamel fir trees in Mexico they have one thing in mind—head north to find where plants are plentiful. Felix Neck is the perfect place where Monarchs can find the nutrients they need to feel nourished and maintain their fragile population. Over the years Felix Neck has become a safe haven for animals and people alike who thrive in the protection and support the sanctuary has to offer.
Unlike Monarchs or Ospreys, the summer staff come to the Island for a myriad of reasons. Some to get a break from the stressors of college and high school, others to relive their days as campers at Fern and Feather, and some were presented with an exciting opportunity and could not refuse the call of the Island.
One of our counselors, Will, first experienced the magic of environmental education while working at a Maine Audubon site. Another counselor, Christina, grew up near the White Mountains and has been hiking her whole life. For counselor Davis, loving nature was instilled in him by his father who worked to help educate and preserve various ecosystems.
Though the reasons vary, all these camp counselors came to Felix Neck for one reason—to spend sun-filled days on the Vineyard educating campers about the magic of the natural world.
For three of our counselors—Mackenzie, Liam, and Parker—migration to Felix Neck was set much earlier as campers. Liam, a junior counselor, clocked in his 13th year immersing himself in outdoor education at Fern and Feather. For Parker, this marks his 11th year returning, Mackenzie, her 8th. For Claire, Assistant Camp Director, this is her 7th year guiding young minds through our trails and across our marshes. Will and Christina, their 3rd year spent listening to the adventures of Felix, our camp mascot.
For others the opportunity to get to work with kids and spend their summer days at Felix Neck was not something to be missed. Davis, Kathryn, and Mikaela all migrated to Felix Neck for the first time, hoping to impact campers by talking about the changing environment and work in the various gardens and habitats that make our camp so special.
Summer working at Felix Neck is as magical as it is nourishing. Whether it’s feeling like you can make a difference in the lives of kids by opening their eyes to the natural world around them, as Will has found, or being able to catch a Snapping Turtle and brag about it on iNaturalist like Liam, our staff make memories that they will remember long after they have left the Island.
For Christina, the ability to be a part of a Felix Neck family brings her back year after year. For Mackenzie, getting to do water testing and sharing the impact of climate change with the older campers has furthered her own education as well as the campers’. Mikaela has found enjoyment from learning from her campers, who know so much about Martha’s Vineyard. For Claire, finding a family and place that allows her to be herself brings her peace every summer. For two of our counselors, this summer has felt like they "are barely working" because they often get swept away by nature and the fun of the campers.
This place becomes a home, even if just for a few months, as staff come together, build family, and grow both in their impact on others and themselves.
Our family will be dispersing come fall. Will is heading back to his junior year at Bowdoin College, Liam back to finish high school in New Jersey, Christina to stay here and be the founding teacher at our newly opened Fern & Feather Preschool, Kathryn to do elephant sanctuary work in Namibia, Davis to start his first year of college at the University of Rhode Island, Mikaela will be teaching Grade 4 students at Nativity Prep in Boston, Parker and Jacob to continue high school at the MV Regional High School, and Claire will go back to teaching science to students in Grades 7-8 in Brooklyn.
Though they are sad to be leaving Felix Neck, they are excited to continue to bring the love of nature wherever they go.
Felix Neck is a first and foremost a safe space for wildlife. Every summer our counselors remind campers to stay on trails, to only use two fingers to touch our Corn Snake (named "Corny" by our campers), to use kind words and kind bodies, and to use "nature voices" when getting close to our Ospreys.
However, just as important, these Nature Heroes make this place safe for the campers, a place to have a tremendous amount of fun, come up with new songs, and for some, to climb that tree you never thought you could. No matter who shows up at Fern and Feather we can thank these heroes for making it a safe haven welcoming our Felix Neck community back year after year. There is definitely a reason we see our counselors migrating back to the sanctuary to find nourishment, their family, or—if they’re lucky enough—to spot a Monarch.