So you are thinking about being a camp counselor for a summer? Do you want to spend a summer working in a stunning setting in the mountains with fresh air and beautiful weather and travel to new parts of the world? Are you looking to expand on your experience working with children or coaching? Do you want the ability to meet people from all over the world and make everlasting friendships? Do you want to make a difference in someone’s life?
Being a camp counselor is one of the hardest jobs that you will love. The relationships you create and the impact you make with campers and staff members will give you memories and friends that can last a lifetime.
The job of camp counselor is very challenging and demanding (along with being a lot of fun!) While working as a camp counselor you are constantly engrossed with the campers’ experience. You rarely get a chance to check facebook, you barely get a chance to check your phone, and you have kids full of energy begging for you to play cards, play games or shoot hoops with them. On top of that, you live and sleep in the same room as these campers.
But why do it? The reward of being a camp counselor stays with you for the rest of your life. Helping a camper shoot his or her first bull’s-eye in archery, having a camper conquer his or her fear of heights on the high ropes course, help teach a camper how to start his or her own lanyard knot only to hear they were able to do it on their own. It is the little things that as young adults and adults we take for granted. It is the ability to create fun and lasting memories.
To be a successful camp counselor in any camp environment, you have to be a mature goofball. When you come to work at a summer camp, you need to check your ego at the front gate. You have to be able to laugh at yourself and allow others to laugh with you. It shows the campers and other staff members that you are here to have fun and nothing is going to stop you, but you are going to do it in a mature and safe manner. You have to be able to create games on the fly, play these crazy games and enjoy them like it is best game you have ever played. Finally, you have to be able to put the camper first, no matter how quickly they can push your buttons (which may happen.)
One of the best qualities a great counselor has is being able to listen. Listen to what your camper has to say; whether it is talking about their arts and crafts activity, of their pets from home, or their crazy stories about family vacations. If you actually listen to the campers, they will learn to respect you as a counselor and a person.
The one quality we always see in the great counselors we have worked with is their ability to put the camper before him or herself; no matter the issue, no matter the time, no matter how tired you might be. What happens when a camper has a problem? The GOOD counselor makes sure someone is there to resolve the issue and leaves… The GREAT counselor sits with that camper until he or she is feeling better again, even if that means leaving late on your night off, and checks in with them over the next couple days.
The difference of being a good counselor, to a great counselor, can also have an impact on whether the campers have just a good summer, or the best summer ever.
The best summer ever starts with you. When a camper goes home for the summer and begins to tell his or her parents about the great summer they had, YOUR NAME will be said within the first ten words in that child’s story of his or her summer.
You have an opportunity as a summer camp counselor to make a difference in child’s life. Whether it is life skills, social skills, or just having fun, you have the option to create that for the camper.
Think about a time in your life when someone helped you achieve something you are proud of. You get a chance to be that person. That is why we are here. The work is demanding; that is why being a camp counselor is one of the hardest jobs that you will love. With hard work comes great reward, and there is not better reward than a happy child. It is an experience you will never forget.
We were thrilled to recently host a Weequahic Northeast Reunion. Seeing our campers and their families during the year is certainly a treat for us. It was also a great reminder of Courage, one the Weequahic Core Values, we teach. Let me explain….
At camp, we define courage not as the absence of fear but rather as acting even though the fear is present. Our campers practice this often by climbing further up the rock wall than they thought they could, learning to waterski for the first time, getting up on stage in the play, or being on a team they’ve never tried before.
It’s not just on the fields of play where courage is developed but in the bunks as well. Most of our campers arrive without knowing anyone at camp. It takes guts to go into a bunk of all new campers and build friendships. Thankfully, by the end of three or six weeks, these friendships are not only built but cemented into place!
Back to the reunion… many of our campers return the reunion without having seen their camp friends for some time. “Will they remember me? Who will be there that I know?” These are questions we all struggle with at times, especially when we are young.
Thankfully, with camp friends, this brief moment of anxiousness was overcome by an outpouring of courage and mirth – campers jumped and hugged and laughed there way around the bowling alley, even those who started nervous of how the day would go.
Weequahic campers hold the value of courage highly. They understand it is a muscle needed to be used and trained in order to be strong and available when truly needed. Thankfully, we have so many wonderful ways in which to practice at camp. Whether in the bunks, on the fields, in the lake, or Activity Center, Weequahic campers are courageous!
We recently listened to a man who has spent many, many years studying the effects of play on humans. While it sounds a lot like our job as camp directors, he’s got the Ph.D. so we thought to give him our attention. We are glad we did.
Dr. Stuart Brown said several fascinating things about Play:
It overrides what is sometimes fixed in our natures – it brings individuals together in ways which allow them to expand their knowledge of others and the world around them.
If the purpose is more important than the act of doing it, it’s probably not play.
People who have not played with their hands (fixing and building) do not solve problems as well.
The basis of human trust is established through play signals. We begin to lose those signals as we age.
When you look at camp through the prism of these statements on play, you ecounter a big ‘duh!’ moment. Watching our campers play together shows you how the common act of laughing together, or playing gaga, or chase, or different table games allows the kids to spread their wings and learn.
While we have a good bit of unstructured play at Weequahic (which we feel important), there is also a great deal of play within teams such as soccer, basketball, baseball, dance teams, and more. Campers build trust with their teammates, learn from mistakes, and are taught to keep a great attitude throughout their time at camp.
In woodshop, robotics, and ceramics, we give kids a great opportunity to explore with their hands and make, fix, and tear apart things they don’t normally at home. These experiences lead to wonderful outcomes both over the short and the long term.
Thankfully, Dr. Brown reminds us that we, as humans, are designed to play throughout our lifetimes. We couldn’t agree more. And, since play signals help build trust, we hire camp counselors who show the right mix of maturity and experience while keeping playfulness close to the surface.
We are excited to remain a place where play leads to several much needed outcomes: relationship formation, the development of confidence and independence, and a community in which campers know they are accepted. Whether through our traditions, choice based program, evening activities or during free time, our campers laugh and learn while playing!
I have been a part of the Camp Weequahic family for 13 years, as a camper from 1995 until 2002, and as a counselor from 2003 until 2007. These were the best summers of my life and I would give anything to simply be a kid and do it all again!
The memories that come back to me every June when I realize a whole new generation of campers get to experience the same things that shaped my life when I was a child and young adult. These experiences that campers and counselors gain during their summers at Weequahic are priceless; whether it is teaching a camper how to do an activity, learning from counselors and staff that hail from all corners of the world, or just simply having fun with your best friends.
We all looked forward to the traditions that have shaped our summers, including Carnival, MTV Night, Miss Weequahic, Tribal War, Olympics, The Dance, and the hundreds of other activities that all enjoyed. And the bunk trips were always a favorite, kayaking or canoeing on the Delaware River, camping out in tents and building a fire, going to a baseball game, or riding the coasters at Hershey Park; they all were great memories.
The last days of camp are always the hardest, when we remember all of the fun we had during the past weeks as we watch the candles float out onto Sly Lake or the giant “W” burning on main campus. As the summer comes to an end, we know it is time to go “home”, but in our minds “home” is the few beautiful acres in Lakewood PA nestled in the Pocono Mountains. And as the busses leave camp, driving down Woods Road and driving away from the place we call home, we knew it would only be ten short months until we returned.
I urge all Alumni to write in, share photos, and share memories. It is important that we all give back to the place that has given so much to us all.
Raise your hand if this sounds familiar…
Your child comes to you and says, for what seems like the billionth time, “Ask me more about camp.” It’s now December and you’ve heard some of the stories so many times that you can actually recite them along with her. You wonder what odd but amusing little story your little one has managed to scour from the back of her mind that somehow involves the solitary five minutes of summer camp about which you haven’t yet heard. While you’re doing this, your child only grows more impatient, “Go ahead. Ask me,” this time becoming so excited that she hops up and down a couple of times and appears to be choreographing her own little “ask me more about camp” dance, which somewhat tops the bemusement of the time she sang for you to ask.
You can’t resist her enthusiasm because you think it’s great to see her this excited about anything other than the latest episode of iCarly, so you cave and wait for her mile-a-minute relay of some cute story about that time she held hands with six friends and they all jumped off the water trampoline and made a really big splash, which was really funny because it made so many waves that it almost tipped over a paddleboarder nearby…No, really it was SO funny! Or the time they went on the nature walk, and it started raining, and they were trying to hurry back to camp, but they slipped in the mud…THAT was the funniest! You’re still trying to get the stains out of the shirt she was wearing that day, but you get an image in your head, having seen the photographs of your child and her friends covered in mud the camp posted on its website, and knew from the ear-to-ear grin that she was obviously having the time of her life, and you have to chuckle because, yes, it’s funny.
Your child starts a new story about a soccer game and how her friend had really wanted to score a goal all summer at camp but really wasn’t that good at soccer, so she blocked another player so the friend could try to score. And you realize that even though you might get asked to quiz her about camp a few hundred more times before the line turns into “I can’t wait to go back!” you don’t mind because you realize that hearing about little moments like this is nice. Not only did your child just have the time of her life, her enthusiasm in sharing her experiences with you adds great value to your decision to send her to camp because not only is she having fun but she’s learning valuable life lessons.