Off Campus

Inside BB&N: Junior Guides

In 1960, the administration of the Browne and Nichols School was confronted with a conflict: two boys needed to repeat their ninth grade year, but they didn’t want to attend the orientation program at Bivouac—a 10-day mandatory freshman trip to New Hampshire—a second time. After the administration tossed around a few ideas, Bivouac Founder Gibby Graves from the class of 1925 suggested that the boys return to Camp Marienfeld as junior guides (JGs).

The idea of a JG arose from the Junior Maine Guide Program, which trains people between the ages of 9 and 18 to undergo a variety of wilderness exercises to become certified to assist on camping trips. Mr. Graves owned a summer camp that participated in the program, so he relayed the idea to the Browne and Nichols administration.

Fifty-seven years later—over four decades after Browne and Nichols merged with the Buckingham School—the JG program is still intact. Overseen by English Teacher Alda Farlow, the program welcomes approximately 20 juniors and seniors back to Bivouac each year to help usher the freshmen through the trip. JGs accompany them on hikes, lead their activities, and offer advice about high school.

“A good [JG] will help the freshmen understand and overcome the challenges of Bivouac by being supportive, positive, helpful, and friendly,” Ms. Farlow said. “A JG should help resolve issues within a squad, work together to get things done such as helping other squads set up their sites, and create a positive environment for the freshmen, all while enjoying their time, too.”

She added, “We could not do what we do at Bivouac without the JGs. I love that we ask eleventh and twelfth graders to take on leadership roles that directly affect the lives of our newest members.”

The process of becoming a JG begins each March when Ms. Farlow and Freshman Class Dean David Strodel ’78 invite applications at a sophomore class meeting. Ms. Farlow said 20 boys and 20 girls typically submit applications, which consist of a reference letter from a faculty member and two written pages explaining why the applicant wants the position and what characteristics would make him or her a good JG.

Ms. Farlow, Mr. Strodel, and a collection of faculty members who double as senior guides at Bivouac then come together to discuss each application before sending out decisions in May.

Math Teacher and Bivouac Senior Guide Christine Oulton said the process can be difficult.

“Picking JGs is tough. There are no other jobs like it at the US, so previous experience doesn’t really come into play,” she said. “The good part is that we often have a large applicant pool, and since the entire Biv staff helps to pick the JGs, we often get to hear from several voices who remember the applicants’ own Bivouac experiences.”

Jossy Wang ’18, a JG last fall and again this year, said her experience with JGs as a freshman at Bivouac prompted her interest in applying to be one herself.

“I think it helps the incoming students to know that we went through similar experiences and are there to help with a perspective that can be different from the teachers’,” she said.

A week before school starts, the JGs trek up to Camp Marienfeld for a day with Ms. Farlow, Mr. Strodel, and the other senior guides to help set up camp. They build a sample squad site, test out the rock wall, and review and refine final logistics before the freshmen arrive.

In addition to their duties at Camp Marienfeld, the JGs join the freshmen on a laser tag field trip over the winter and host two blood drives at the US campus during the school year.

Philip Liu ’20 said he appreciated the friendliness of the JGs last year at Bivouac.

“I thought the JGs were great role models. They were available to help us whenever we needed it. Whether it was lighting a fire or answering a question about US life, the guides were always there to help,” he said. “I think they helped us as freshmen realize that the US community was a friendly and inviting place to learn.”

JG Lucy Lyman ’18 added, “Being a JG is hard work, but I love the feeling of the dirt under my nails. Spending one of the first few weeks of school in such a special place has been one of my favorite parts of BB&N, and it’s been so wonderful to be able to help continue what’s such a beloved tradition.”

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