By Amanda Wallin
This fall we will be exploring the interests of our WACAC members in a new blog, “Counselor by Day…”
These entries will highlight select members of our community who have strong passions in areas outside of their 9-to-5 (do any of us really work 9 to 5 anymore?) work roles! Each month will highlight a different member who was generous enough to share their personal stories with all of us.
To start off this series we’ll be hearing from Hillary Higgins, Assistant Director of Admission at USC and her involvement with the Dream Street Foundation.
Amanda Wallin (AW): Hillary, please tell us, what is your “other” field of interest?
Hillary Higgins (HH): For the past five years I have been a volunteer for the Dream Street Foundation. We provide a one-week sleep away camp for children ages 4 to 14 who live with life-threatening illnesses. I do a fair amount of fundraising for the organization throughout the year, but for one weak in July, I am a camp counselor. It’s honestly the best week of my year and brings me so much joy and happiness. The kids are amazing and we all have so much fun.
AW: How did you get involved in this field?
HH: My best friend from high school has been a counselor since we were in middle school. After I finished graduate school, I had time during the summer to volunteer so I went to camp with her. It was the most exhausting week but there was no way I wasn’t going back. I started to go to the monthly volunteer meetings and became more involved in activities throughout the year.
AW: What is something we may not know about this field?
HH: When I tell people about camp, they automatically go to a place of sadness when they find out about the camper population. But these kids are SO happy to be at camp that most of the time you wouldn’t even know they were sick. Although some campers have illnesses that will follow them throughout their lives, many do enter remission and join us as adults to be counselors themselves. Camp is full of happiness and laughter and it’s definitely contagious!
AW: What drew you to the field of higher education?
HH: I’ve always loved working with parents and families. I used to be an education lawyer and that was my favorite part of my job. Higher education, especially admissions, allows me to continue working with families but I was able to leave the legal part behind (phew!) I was talking to someone in my office about this recently, and they said “of course you like your job, you’re a camp counselor.” I had never associated the two, but I guess I really just connect with industries that allow me to work with young people in a meaningful way.
AW: How does your experience in another field help you in your role within higher education?
HH: Camp gives me perspective that lasts throughout the year. Children just look at life differently. They live day to day and don’t dwell on what they can’t control. My campers have so much ahead of them that they will really struggle with, but they don’t really think about it while they are at camp. I try to adopt a little of this attitude so I can stay in the present and not dwell on things I can’t control.
AW: Anything else you think we should/would want to know?
HH: Dream Street is the best! If anyone wants to get involved with a great organization, just let me know!!
Thank you to Hillary for sharing her experience with us! See this awesome picture of her below with some of her campers!
P.S. If any of you out there have stories you want to share, please don’t hesitate to contact me!