From Camper to Counselor
We are always very pleased that 80-85% of our staff return to camp each summer, and that continuity is great for families and staff alike. As I looked closer at the statistic, I realized that many of our staff members are those who started as campers, and I wondered what compelled them to continue at camp as a counselor. A couple weeks ago, I had a conversation with Eliza, a former camper turned SSL counselor whose first summer was last year.
Eliza was a Green Acres camper for many years and found camp to be fun. However, she was quick to point out that during her time at camp she also found that she was learning while she was having fun, and that the friendships that she formed during her time at camp were lasting ones that continued long after the camp sessions ended. Eliza also found the camp overnights to be fantastic opportunities for campers and counselors to form strong bonds that lasted from summer to summer, and the camaraderie among her counselors inspired her to want to work at camp.
As an SSL counselor, Eliza hoped to make camp fun for the campers and convey that learning can be fun, much like her counselors had done for her. She looked forward to being a role model for campers, and during her first year, she found that her move from camper to counselor felt like a natural transition. She credits her experience at camp with helping her make this transition a smooth one; however she quickly added that she learned A LOT last summer, particularly through the SSL program and from her unit leader and head counselors.
Although she has extensive babysitting experience, last year’s camp job was her first “real world” job, and Eliza found that she learned more about working with children during her six weeks at camp than she has babysitting over the past few years. She enjoyed working with professionals who have years of experience and who are willing to impart their knowledge to those around them. Eliza also found that camp gave her an excellent idea of what holding a job is like, particularly since the SSL counselors are expected to arrive on time, to ask for clarification when necessary, to participate fully in all activities, and to work with others who have different personalities and working styles.
Her SSL experience was so fantastic that Eliza is returning to camp again this summer. Now that she has a year of experience under her belt, she is looking forward to learning more activities and to having more responsibilities than she did last year. An avid Pinterest user, Eliza is always bursting with new ideas, and she is hoping to take a more proactive approach this summer and suggest new and different activities for the campers in her unit. She loves the team approach to camp and looks forward to helping another group of campers learn, explore, and experiment with new activities. I wish her loads of fun and enjoyment back in Unit A this year.
After speaking with Eliza, I contacted a few other campers who have worked as counselors at camp, and each one stated that the reason they became a counselor was due to their camp experience. They were inspired by their counselors, and they wanted to make learning fun, and to “give back” to camp. We are looking forward another summer full of inspiration and engagement, too.
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