For two-thirds of his life, Justin Paulsen has spent summers at the Greater Bergen County YMCA’s camps in New York’s Harriman State Park.

Paulsen joined Camp Oratam, the day camp, when he was 6 years old, and Camp Michikamau, the sleepaway camp, four years later. Swimming and boating became his favorite activities, but what drew him back year after year were the friendships he made, he said. 

It was only natural that he became a junior counselor last summer, sharing his love for Camp Michikamau. “He showed maturity, patience, and work ethic beyond his years,” Camp Michikamau Director Martin Richards said. 

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The 18-year-old was honored as the Greater Bergen County YMCA’s 2018 Youth of the Year at the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges’ annual dinner on April 11. The Greater Bergen County YMCA is one of seven branches of the Metro YMCA.

“Working with children has taught me how to take responsibility over the care of others and helped me understand how to solve any tough problems campers might have with each other, while keeping them safe and happy,” Paulsen said. 

Paulsen also volunteers at all spring camp cleanup weekends and camp open houses, Richards noted.

The Teaneck High School senior is in the band, Artificial Energy, and plays guitar, electric bass, piano, and the cello. A former wrestler, Paulsen is on the high school’s varsity crew team. He said he intends to pursue a career in music, but also study electrical engineering. He’ll be back at Camp Michikamau this summer.



Established in 1885, the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges invests in its diverse communities to promote wellness, safety and quality of life for children, adults and seniors. Its seven branches in East Orange, Livingston, Maplewood, Hackensack, Hardyston, Stillwater and Wayne are committed to nurturing the potential of kids, promoting healthy living and fostering a sense of social responsibility through an array of programs. Some 35,000 people belong to the Metro Y, which awards more than $2.8 million annually in direct and indirect financial assistance.