Camp memories: Woodsy camp leads to career in great outdoors

I started going to Camp Chi (Chicago Hebrew Institute) in Lake Delton, Wisc., at age 10 and continued every summer — as a camper, then counselor-in-training, junior counselor and nature counselor.

Camping in the woods of Wisconsin, canoeing scenic rivers, being with new and old friends were special. Could “environment” be a vocation? Or should it just be an avocation? Because of my interest in nature, I chose to attend the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and received a B.S. and M.S. in conservation — all this before Earth Day (1970).

This Jewish girl from Chicago turned down a National Park Service job offer (not sure about committing to the wilds of Montana) but had a long career with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I now enjoy volunteering with the Audubon Society’s school wetlands program, have served on Camp Tawonga’s board and have volunteered at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in the Negev (the perfect place to combine my Jewishness with my environmental experience).

I visited Camp Chi a few years ago and was thrilled to discover that the circle of white pines the CITs planted 50 years ago had grown into huge, healthy trees. My camp experience encouraged me to choose a wonderful career; I value that and my lifelong friends from Camp Chi.

Sara Segal retired after 32 years working for federal environmental programs. She lives in San Francisco.