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This page displays the personal essays written by CTY students, and the comments on said essays. Please be constructive, no rude or derogatory comments, etc.

  Please do not, in any way, change the actual essay page, aside from formatting; everything
  else should be verbatim.  Breaking this rule may result in warnings/bannage.

The Declaration of Independence

July 4th, 23.1. The residents of Halldia decided to declare independence from their RA, Hadia.

The Zhdanova Comics

As has been posted on the Silent Football page, Masha Zhdanova has created Mr. Dictator, what is love?. A followup comic, Where the road disappears, has been released here. I don't know where the most appropriate place might be to place these, as they aren't exactly essays. However, I do believe they are just as important as all of the essays on the frontpage, and I dare say probably the most poignant and honest collation of someone's thoughts on CTY that I've seen.

AnglingForAnotherEyeRollFrame (talk) 00:34, 10 February 2019 (EST)

Essay:Untitled (EB Saldana)

holy shizzle, EB do you remember me? that girl from cty 2004 at washington college. the girl who needed a psychiatrist?


"And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know you realize that life goes fast. It's hard to make the good things last."

-The Flaming Lips

-Posted by Silent Bob

Essay:Honey (Stephanie)

Hey, Stephanie, were you an RA at JHU? Cause I went there 06.1 and you seem familiar.

Essay:Working for CTY (Anonymous)

I just want to note that while I completely agree that the job is hard, and can be frustrating at times, I look forward to getting to work at CTY each summer. Also, I feel really strongly that the best way to keep the traditions alive is to encourage more and more alums to come back as staff. I, personally, think that giving back to a place that made such a huge impression on me during my adolescence is one of the most important and rewarding things I could do with 6 weeks.

A former TA's addendum (can I write this here?): Being a TA is not as well-paid, but phenomenally easier than being an RA. Your hours will be more like a traditional 8-hour work day, as you will only be on duty during class hours, with some duties during lunch and right after class, and possibly some grading to take back to your dorm. You will have weekends off, at least until Study Hall on Sunday. The administration of many sites barely even tells its instructional staff about many rules, so failing to 'notice' rule-breaking is easier to get away with (be prepared to confiscate a lot of frisbees over break, though, and you still have to keep class in order). However, TAs' influence on the CTY experience is pretty limited to class time. If you want to help run activities, social time, or dances, be an RA. However, instructional staff on some sites do go to the dances, and TAs who play their cards right may be able to run one or two activities. Socially, the instructional staff is somewhat different from residential staff. At Lancaster, the instructional staff has a lot of returners, and therefore has developed some of its own traditions, which is nice (but not if you're really stuck on the student traditions). For example, some instructional staff at Lancaster have their own circle during "American Pie." Due to the presence of the instructors, returning TAs, returning RAs who transition to TAs, and a variety of other reasons, the instructional staff is an older group overall. I really enjoyed my experience as a TA, though sometimes I think I might have liked to be an RA one year (too old for either job nowadays).

I intend to become an RA once I am eligible, but I have a question. When I was summoned over to the Skidmore Dean of Residential Life Mike Chin to have detention I struck up a conversation of my idea of becoming an RA. He said that its very rare but sometimes they may hire a senior to become an RA, yet I've never seen one. Is this true?

-Edwin Ma CTY 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006

Edwin - They try to avoid that, but I think it has happened, at least in some programs. If you REALLY think you're up for it (and think hard on that point), your best bet is to apply really close to the beginning of the session. They tend to hire people in the Spring, and inevitably some of them cancel in the last minute. So people who most likely wouldn't get hired in the regular pool (like high school seniors) may get hired in the last minute.

Seriously, though, when I was a high school senior and longing for CTY, I went to TIP. And now there's the Princeton site. I think it is usually a good idea to wait a bit before going back as staff. There's plenty of time for that in college.

Somebody wrote this on CTYTherapy: [1]

Being an RA is really more of a lifestyle than a job. That being said, I've had an impressively diverse employment history, and I can unhesitatingly say that being an RA was the best job I ever had. At Lancaster, I would estimate that on average, between 25-40% of the residential staff are in their 2nd or 3rd year as an RA.

I would strongly advise against trying to be an RA after senior year. I'd guess that less than 1% of CTYers would have the maturity to do so at that point. As an 18-year old RA fresh out of HS, do you think you could:

  • Deal with a 16-year old who's blatantly breaking important rules, but expects you to let it slide since you two were hallmates a couple years ago.
  • Maintain appropriate boundaries. Not only does this mean that you can't hang out with the 16-year olds in ways that you're probably used to, you also have to be very careful about the 16-year olds of the opposite sex who attempt to hit on you. Staff/student incidents have happened before, and they tend to get real ugly real fast.
  • Be mature enough not to get yourself into any stupid situations. This includes underage drinking.

Unless you're dead certain on this, don't come back yet. Staying away would be the best thing you can do for the camp.

In any case, it's better to see how you fare as a freshman in college first. You've got to make sure that you can be responsible for yourself before even considering being responsible for others. You also have to learn that one final lesson that CTY is supposed to teach you- how to move past it.


I find the above fake statistic personally insulting. The RA experience, while different from the CTY experience, is still an experience in itself. I would go as far to say that most of the people who really want to come back as an RA would strive to do the best job possible, because they want the current campers to have a great an experience as they did back when they were eligible.

--Max W. 07:27, 26 August 2006 (MST)

...but it takes a while to learn the difference between enhancing campers' experiences by letting them do anything they want (or worse, letting the ones you relate to the most do anything they want), and doing so by being a sane, reasonable adult who can look out for everyone's happiness and safety and otherwise do your job. I have to say even when I was several years into college and starting work at CTY, I had a hard time with that. In fact, nearly all the younger staff members I've known have had such problems, and the younger they start, the worse it can be. I think when you're trying to figure out how hard it is to be an RA, it's best to listen to the RA.

-The former TA.

Definite "agreed" with the former TA above, and another "agreed" in having a hard time the first year. Striving to do the best job isn't the issue. The issue is first knowing what doing the best job possible entails, and then figuring out how to do that within appropriate boundaries. Enthusiasm without maturity causes far more damage than apathy.

The tough part is that people who think they're mature enough fall into two categories- those who really are, and those who really aren't. In the case of the latter, they're too immature to realize that they're immature. And therein lies the problem that's plagued RA staffs nearly every year.

I am of the opinion that nobody should go back to their "home" site for at least three years, and preferably four. It's damn tough to be appropriately detached with only one summer away from the site. Four years is often considered one "generation" of CTY kids, in that someone who was 13 when the RA was 16 will have aged out of the program and there will be very few kids around who were students when the RA was a student.


I think that this essay has given me a different perspective on being an RA. I am one of those CTYers who has a really tough time getting over the fact that it's over. In fact, even now, with school already in full swing, I can't get over the fact that I will not be going to morning run or another CTY dance until June. Or maybe I won't again as a CTYer again. So, I've been telling myself, "As soon as I can, I will take the Forevermore road and do the RA-->TA-->Instructor thing." But reading this, I realize that I may try to hard to be the favorite RA and not be the best. Or maybe I'll just get too caught up with CTY and forget that it's really over for me now. I mean, I had a TA this year who graduated CTY five years ago, and he was so creepy- he was everywhere and tried to do all these traditions with us and it was just very disturbing. I kept wanting to tell him, "Get over it- CTY is over for you so stop ruining it for us." Then I realized that I was probably stuck in the same mentality as him. And so... I think this essay has helped me a lot, and I want to say thanks for setting me straight before I damaged anyone's perception of CTY. The only thing that would depress me more than CTY being over is my influence in ending it for someone else.

I like you. I love you. I CTY you.


I think that was outrageous, and I can't agree. I'm probably not coming back freshman year to do whatever it is I'll do at CTY after high school But that's because I'm the youngest in my grade by some 6-8 months I'll be..well, I will be 18 after my first year of college And knowing myself, I won't have great control and in reality, I'd probably be one of the kids Plus it is true, you'd probably still know some people who are no-mores during your first year. That'd be rather complicated Well, I know I'll be back to RA if I can get a job. I don't think this discouraged me at all I pretty much understand that we drive our RAs crazy and that we tend to be easier on TAs (Unless it's Joe, who never smiles for us) Course, Having Max and I, Jeremy had a fun session due to the fact we were self supporting Just a few squirrels fights I had to break up But hey I'll be back to kick ass. (as a RA)


On Leaving CTY by Matthew Belmonte

Matthew Belmonte was a CTY instructor who parted ways with CTY in 1998 due to "ideological differences". This is an essay he wrote about the issue. He made some rather dire predictions about CTY in this essay, many of which have thankfully not come true. However, Belmonte's leaving was a highly controversial topic that was much discussed among students and staff for years afterward. The essay is therefore of at least historical relevance. Matthew Belmonte now works at Duke's TIP program.

Essay:Of CTY (Wendeth)

Essay:Does Anybody Remember Laughter? (Declan Kennedy)

Essay:One Place in All the World (Alder Fletcher)

Essay: Maybe (Marcia)

Essay: On "Drag Day"

I've been away from the world of CTY for a while. It's been five years since I aged out, but I've been sporadically contacted to help out with monarchical affairs and dredge up old passwords and whatnot from the archives (which I am always happy to do). After one such recent request, I skimmed through the Baltimore CTY instagram and saw a description of a new instantiation of Drag Day: "new style day." The description urged that it was not a day about gender expression, rather a day about trying something new. With copious warning that it was optional, this rebranding seemed to strip the day of any association with the origin rooted in protest against the enforcement of gendered clothing norms and rules.

This seems to follow a trend of deep struggle with the concept of Drag Day, one of the more controversial CTY traditions. Even the name itself has been clearly fraught, with the CTY culture page "Cross-dress Day" involving dozens of renaming attempts, from the well known "Drag Day" and "Swap Day" to slightly reaching attempts like "Wacky Wednesday." As I reflect on this, I wanted to share some of my thoughts about the big picture. I know first-hand how easy it is to be sucked into the depths of planning and logistics, trying to find the most inoffensive and proper way to frame the day. But, more than the typical allure of tradition, there is a reason Drag Day exists.

As the story goes, once upon a time a male student wore a skirt. Administration back in those days disapproved, and the student was told to change. In protest, fellow campers swapped their gendered clothing and Drag Day was born. Of course, the story did not end there: in subsequent years there have been attempts to ban Drag Day, considering it offensive. In an irony apparently missed by the administration, students who participated during a period when the tradition was banned were forced to change back into their typical gendered clothing.

I see echoes of this irony in a lot of the discourse surrounding the tradition. It seems to me that the attempts to stave off any possibility of making Drag Day offensive completely misses the point. It is a clear fact that fabric is not an inherently gendered thing. However, the *point* of Drag Day is that the world has often not yet acknowledged that fact. Drag Day is inherently a protest of the gender binary and the stereotypes of gender that go along with it. **In order to protest a stereotyped gender binary, the tradition must acknowledge that it exists.** When people attempt to rebrand Drag Day into an event that exists only in a post-gender future which cannot acknowledge the imposition of gender norms, they are losing the statement that the day was meant to be. And I don't think we've progressed enough as a society to a point where that statement is no longer meaningful. We are not yet in a world where boys can wear skirts and feel completely free from any judgement. As long as social norms still promote gendered stereotypes in clothing, the original statement of Drag Day is still relevant: CTYers stand against these gender stereotypes and the social norms that inhibit those who don't conform to them.

Moreover, CTYers actively encourage exploration of that non-conformity. This is an aspect of Drag Day less often discussed, as it's more of a meta point and often a very sensitive and personal topic. But for many campers, Drag Day is the first time they've had the chance to experiment with their own gender presentation. And what safer environment is there to try something new? Drag Day lets an anxious boy too scared to wear makeup to class do so not only without judgement but in a genuinely lighthearted and supportive environment where nobody will think anything of it. Drag Day is the first time a student who knows deep down he's a boy but can't tell his parents yet take pictures in a suit. Drag Day may awaken something in a young camper who's gone along with the clothes assigned to them but never really enjoyed traditional gender presentations. In a thousand different ways, it is the Drag Day which is explicitly about gender stereotypes that most fights against them, on both an individual and a collective level.

This is not to say that I don't think Drag Day should be updated as our societal views on gender progress. On the contrary, that is the hope of something like Drag Day. It is perhaps the only CTY tradition that hopes to die out. Not because CTYers forget about it, but because Drag Day dreams of a future where its original premise is no longer comprehensible, where a boy in a skirt is as normal and socially acceptable as any other fashion choice.

It is no longer my role to make these kinds of decisions, and I firmly believe that is a good thing. CTY traditions are meant to be run by the students, not some long-aged-out forevermore who's biggest continuing connection to current campers is the lingering effects of poor password management. In writing this I in no way intend to be arguing about what Drag Day (or Swap Day or New Style Day) should be. I will lose that argument. I should lose that argument. It's not up to me anymore what traditions ought to be.

I'm writing this in the hopes that it can be of some use to current CTYers, that as you go forward you keep this big picture in mind as you go on to decide which traditions to preserve and how. Drag Day has a history, and has a purpose. I've seen the evolution of the day over the last 10 years since I first got involved in CTY, and whether or not the day ought to be preserved, I do hope that future CTY generations will not forget the history and purpose of Drag Day. Your decision, whatever it is, is the right one. All I'm advocating is that it be an informed and intentional one.