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College Essay Season

It is an annual tradition during the college essay season for the year-round team to anticipate at least a couple of essays from our young leaders who have chosen to highlight Camp’s impact on some aspect of their lives. We are thrilled to share the essay written by #25566 Jashaun O’Garro, who will graduate in June from Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven, CT. Jashaun will return to Camp as an AL in 2024 and attend Connecticut College in the Fall. Jashaun has been part of the Squash Haven Community partner program.

Photo: top left – Jashaun O’Garro


Jay-shaun? Jah-shaun? For the first few days of kindergarten, my teacher could not figure out how to say my name. After countless attempts, she asked me one of the most pivotal questions of my life: “Do you want to be known as Jashaun, or JJ?” Thinking that it would be easier for my teacher and for everyone else, I decided to be called JJ. And while JJ became my name at school and with friends, at home, I was still Jashaun. Being called a different name depending on where I was made me feel like I was two different people, which shaped how I presented myself in different communities.  

At home, my more laidback personality came across in my relationships with my mom. Every weekend, after waking up, I went straight to my mom’s room to start our morning ritual of conversations characterized by her warmth and sincerity. While the world outside moved about its day, my mom and I took our time discussing the ups and downs of school and the latest updates on my life. My mom’s willingness to listen and give me advice created a space where I felt cared for and uplifted. These moments defined Jashaun: I was calm and collected, anchored by my family’s love. 

Outside my home, I was more lively and loud, energized by the infinite possibilities for friendship. In class, I strived to engage my peers and uplift their voices in the conversation. During lunch, I floated between tables and laughed alongside my peers, eager to know as many of them as possible. My enthusiasm was most apparent at Squash Haven. Whether it was cheering on my teammates at the annual Squash Haven Jamboree or competing with fierce energy at the annual Urban Team Nationals competition, I have brought to Squash Haven the charismatic and passionate spark that distinguishes JJ.

Over the years, because people had come to know me as either Jashaun or JJ, I felt like I had to keep my identities separate. However, at Squash Haven and at school, there were times when I wished I could have brought my more centered self in moments 

where being upbeat took a lot of energy. And at home, I wanted to express myself in more joyful and spirited ways. I was able to work through this struggle during my summer at Camp Dudley, a wilderness camp I went to the summer before 8th grade. 

The days at Dudley were full of energy, as kids around the camp swam in the lake, played lacrosse, and competed in games of tug of war. I appreciated being surrounded by kids and adults whose enthusiasm for community matched my own. However, as the sun set, the camp had a more mellow vibe. Whether it was sitting around the campfire talking about our deepest fears or exchanging stories about what values we wanted to bring to the world beyond Dudley, I cherished these moments because their serenity made me feel at home. Dudley became a place where I realized that I could be both Jashaun and JJ, and feel good about myself, knowing that both were welcomed, appreciated, and loved. 

When I got home from Dudley, I was more open to blending different aspects of my personality in any community. At Squash Haven, I was willing to talk with my coaches and peers about topics that I usually reserved for my mom, such as my mental health. At home, I started telling my family more about upcoming tournaments and events with the culinary team, knowing that I wanted to celebrate those parts of my life with them. I want to continue to bring my most authentic self to my relationships with the people in my life. Jashaun or JJ, calm or loud, I now know that embracing the full spectrum of my personality will allow me to share with others the heart of who I am. 

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