I was nervous and excited to send my son Connor to Camp Weequahic this year. Connor’s best friend attended the camp the summer before and could not stop raving about it. So after plenty of research and discussions, we decided to let Connor spend the summer away. I won’t lie, my “mommy heart” broke a little when he practically jumped out of the car at drop off and didn’t look back, but I was pretty sure we were making the right decision. Last week, when we picked him up, I was 100% sure we had made the right decision. The excited, smiley kid who jumped into our backseat was….different.
I couldn’t pin point many differences right away, except for the excitement in his eyes and voice when he talked about all of his new friends and cracked himself up remembering inside jokes and hilarious conversations with his new buddies. One of the main things I noticed when we got home was how helpful he had become. Without me asking, he would make his bed, take his plates to the sink, offer to bring in the groceries or even simply ask if he could get us anything from the kitchen since he was going that way. I noticed a new sense of thoughtfulness when he came back. Not that he was heartless before by any means, but I definitely noticed a change in his willingness to help others and think of others before himself. As the days passed, my heart exploded with joy to see him excited to email, chat and FaceTime all of his new friends. He went to camp a little reserved, and came back social and confident. I loved seeing him interact with his peers, I loved seeing how he was truly listening to what others had to say, and how he felt confident contributing to the conversation.
Just today, he told me he was going to try out for soccer tryouts at school, a sport he had never played before camp. He said he was encouraged to try it at camp and played it almost every day while he was there. As a mom, I am blown away at what positive changes have come from sending my son to camp. I knew he would make friends, try a new activity or two, and learn to live both independently and with a group, but I had no idea about the social skills, character development, relational growth, and boost in confidence that spending just a few weeks away could create.
Any parent that is even thinking about sending their kid to camp should stop thinking right now and sign them up. Not only will you enjoy a few kid-free weeks of relaxation, but when your kid comes home, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at everything they’ve learned, and more importantly, who they’ve become.
Camp Weequahic changed my son for the better, and we are both looking forward to the growth and changes that will happen next summer at camp!
So what makes a great summer camp experience for your child? Awesome friends, a ton of fun activities and great memories, but most of all an amazing group of staff members. The counselors we hand pick to join our staff are really what makes the camp experience that much better for campers. But what draws counselors in to the Weequahic family? Let’s ask some of our new and returning staff members to find out!
Camp: “Sidney, this is your second summer. It’s great to have you back! What brought you back to CW?”
Sidney (Junior Girls): “I had an incredible all around experience last summer, so I had to come back for another. I was also really excited to see returning staff who have become some of my best friends. And, of course, I can’t forget the awesome campers here!”
Camp: “We are so happy to hear that you had such a great time. Tell us what your favorite part of this experience has been?”
Sidney: “I would have to say watching and getting to know the kids and staff has been an incredible experience. Forming the awesome relationships that make up the Weequahic family has been great too.”
Camp: “And what have you learned this summer?”
Sidney: “I’ve learned a lot being here; especially patience, how to work well with many different types of people, leadership, and how much the little things truly matter.”
Camp: “I would have to agree completely with that statement. One last question for you. What will you miss the most when you leave?”
Sidney: “I will miss waking up every morning and being here at camp with this Weequahic family. This camp truly is a home away from home and it’s because of all of the wonderful people here.”
Camp: “Thank you so much Sidney! Jeremy, same questions for you. What brought you to camp?”
Jeremy (Senior Division): “Well this is my first summer here and what brought me to Weequahic was the fact that I really wanted to do something new, but also fun over the summer. After my first interview I knew this was where I wanted to be.”
Camp: “That’s great! And what has been your favorite part of this experience?”
Jeremy: “I would have to say interacting with all the campers. No two kids are alike, even siblings! You have to approach each one differently which I believe allowed me to grow as a person.”
Camp: “Wow, that’s amazing Jeremy. What have you learned from being here?”
Jeremy: “I’ve learned that attitude is everything. I came into this with an open mind and a positive attitude and it has been the best summer I’ve had in a long time.”
Camp: “We are so happy to hear that you have enjoyed your time here! Tell us what you will miss most when you leave?”
Jeremy: “I’ll definitely miss the campers and my fellow counselors. They are irreplaceable. I’ll miss my co-co’s because they have gone through this camp experience with me from start to finish and I wouldn’t trade a single one. I’ve built so many great relationships with the campers and their genuine happiness and joy for life gives me energy each day. The first few days without seeing their smiles or hearing their laughs will be pretty tough.”
Camp: “Thank you so much for sharing that with us!”
On behalf of all the counselors and staff members here at Weequahic, we would like to say thank you. Thank you for sending your kids have one of the best experiences of their lives here with us. Thank you for giving all of us a chance to be mentors to your children. We have all learned so much from every camper hear and have truly grown to admire the wonderful people they are growing up to be. It has been an amazing and memorable summer that we will always remember and we wish only the very best to each and every member of the Weequahic family this upcoming year.
So you’ve spent a summer—or maybe the better part of your college career—working as a summer camp counselor. You’re nearing graduation and you’re starting to pull together your resume for finding a job in the “real world”. You’ve been wondering, ‘How do I adequately articulate my summer camp experience?’ You’re worried that it will sound trivial to hiring managers, but you know that what you gained from your camp experiences are some of the most valuable skills you’ve learned. You’ve learned the art of communication, having worked with people all over the world and children ranging in age from seven to fifteen. You’ve learned the importance of discretion; your campers didn’t need to know EVERYTHING about you. You’ve learned how to negotiate, mediate, and maintain a positive morale, having coached your campers through swim tests, disagreements, activities, stage fright, and just about a million other things. You’ve learned time management skills. How many other job applicants can motivate twelve campers to move across campus from soccer to woodworking in five minutes or less, consistently coax them out of bed at 7am, and convince them that it’s time for lights out after an exciting evening of activities? You’ve learned how to use creativity to solve problems and are MacGyver with a few jars of paint, construction paper, a little bit of fabric, some scissors, and maybe a little glitter…add feathers and beads to that mix and you can practically re-invent the wheel. In fact, you’ve learned so many things as a summer camp counselor that you’re not even sure how you’re going to fit it all onto one 8 ½” X 11” sheet of paper, nevermind about your other job experience. So how do you convey the importance your summer camp job experience has had on your life in a way that hiring managers will see the value in it, too?
First, as sentimental as those experiences were for you, a hiring manager isn’t looking for the screenplay to the next The Blind Side. They’re looking for prospective employees who can efficiently yet effectively and specifically communicate their skills and abilities in a very concise manner. This means keep it relevant and as action packed as most of those days at summer camp were. Convey how active your summer camp job was through the verbs that you choose.
Second, without being too broad, make your resume sing of how well rounded your skill set is because of your summer camp counselor experience. Employers love diversity. A resume that sings of it will be sure to get a hiring manager’s attention.
Third, do your homework. Job hunting is not a one size fits all endeavor. You need to know and understand not only what you are looking for, but what the company to which you are applying is looking for as well. If there is a particular quality you feel you possess because of your summer camp counselor experience that makes you a good fit for a position or a company, highlight that one quality in your cover letter. Explain specifically how you feel your summer job experience and knowledge will translate into the new role. Having experience is one thing. Demonstrating that you understand how that experience can be integrated into others speaks volumes.
Fourth, don’t be afraid to remind prospective employers, either in your cover letter or at the interview, that being a camp counselor is a 24/7 job. Employers are attracted to people who aren’t afraid to throw themselves heart and soul into their work. What’s more heart and soul than being on duty 24/7?
Finally, be prepared. Be prepared to tell a hiring manager at an interview EXACTLY why you feel your summer camp experience gives you the edge over other applicants. When asked, don’t go into a lengthy mumble that basically amounts to a rehash of your summer(s). Show the hiring manager that you’ve thought long and hard about how your summer camp work experience is relevant to your future and that you understand specifically how to extract your experiences and apply them to other areas of your life. Most importantly, give examples, give examples, give examples!
Working at Camp Weequahic was an experience of a life time. Who would have known that being on the opposite side of the country from my family would have been so easy?
I left my house at 6am on a Saturday morning, got on a plane, and had no idea of what to expect. Of course, I knew the details – I was going to be a bunk counselor and part of the waterfront staff. However, I didn’t know who I was going to work with, what my kids would be like or even the age of the children that would be in my bunk. Even though the Weequahic staff helped get me organized and ready, I was very nervous when I boarded the bus from Laguardia Airport to Weequahic.
During orientation I became familiar with the people who I was going to be working with for the next 10 weeks. I never imagined that these people from all over the world would so quickly become my family and more – my 2nd family, my best friends, and my co-workers all in one.
Little did I know my life was very quickly going to get even better when the kids arrived!
During orientation, I couldn’t really imagine the camp with kids. Once my kids got to camp, though, I could no longer imagine Camp Weequahic without them. Bunk 25 – what a wonderful place this was to live this past summer! Working with my girls was the most impactful memory for me; I will never forget the experience of working with my very first campers.
My 8 and 9 year old girls helped me grow up very quickly; they helped me become more independent, more mature, and much more understanding of what parents go through on a day-to-day basis. Bunk 25 will always hold a special place in my heart.
Camp Weequahic isn’t an ordinary place to work. It’s a home, it’s a lifestyle, and it’s a place where you mean the world to so many kids. Camp Weequahic is more than a job, it’s a family.
A friend recently relayed an experience that made me think about the purpose of a summer camp counselor…
Walking down the street in his hometown, he came to a construction site with only a few guys working. The site used to contain a few broken down buildings that had stood there for years. Interested in the new development, he decided to approach a couple of the workers to see what they were doing.
The first man he approached who was working with bricks replied in a surly manner, “Moving bricks. What does it look like I’m doing?”
The second man was less surly but certainly not very engaged. “Just building a wall,” he sighed.
The third worker was different. There was a smile on his face. Every so often, he’d stop what he was doing, look around and nod to himself. He was sweating and working hard doing basically the same job as the other workers but there was something different about him.
When asked what he was doing, this worker smiled and replied, “I’m building a cathedral.”
It is so easy think about the job at hand as simply a meaningless or boring amalgamation of steps and processes. When explained as simply a couple of steps that have to be done in a specified amount of time, it’s less than inspiring.
At Weequahic, the ‘cathedral’ we are building is the finest summer camp experience and community of young people possible. We want our campers to leave Weequahic believing that it is the greatest place on earth. We want their families to gush about their family’s experience to their friends. We want our staff to know they’ve been a part of something incredibly special.
Therefore, rather than simply going through a list of things we have to do each day (which, of course, we do) in our summer camp jobs, we seek out people who are passionate about creating a safe and extraordinary community for kids and have the skills to do so. We then train and support them before and during the summer to bring out the best in every child and every situation. Finally, we put them together with campers we feel they’ll work with best and get camp going.
If we do our job well, our counselors know that everything they do at camp should lead to that one goal: creating an extraordinary experience for our campers and their families. Whether it’s teaching a better serve in tennis, getting a kid up on water skis, or serving up a delicious meal, each staff member is there and committed to help us ‘build our cathedral.’
What do camp counselors learn at camp that helps them later in life? The specific answers to that question are varied, but one thing remains constant—camp has a big impact on individual lives long after campers grow out of their camping and counselor years. Recently ReadyMade magazine featured Kelly Stoetzel in its regular series about awesome jobs. Kelly works for TED, a nonprofit devoted to “ideas worth spreading” and spends her days interacting with fascinating people from around the world who work to make things better. What was her first job? Camp counselor! And what does she list as her “Best Job”? Camp counselor!
Kelly learned that “being a camp counselor is all about leading a group of people into enthusiasm,” and that continues to be important in her job today. Just as campers and staff still gather each summer—sometimes for the first time and sometimes after waiting all year just to come back—Kelly went to camp! There, learning, personal growth, fun and friendship blossomed during intense times and life-long skills and ideas were forged. Camp operates as a microcosm of experiences that mirror real-life situations as everyone negotiates friendships and different personalities, tries new things and finds their unique role in the group. If you’ve been a camper or a counselor, you know what I’m talking about. You also know that facilitating fun and teamwork takes creativity and enthusiasm. (If you’re thinking about being a counselor, camp is an incredible way to learn skills and prepare for future jobs!)
One counselor puts it this way, “Many aspects of camp allowed counselors to forget life outside of camp and just live in the present focusing on how to facilitate fun in the moment. I don’t think you get to do that as frequently in other life experiences, or at least you are not encouraged to do it as frequently.” She goes on to state that these skills are important in any profession and that camp administrators also served as references for her later jobs. For this counselor, camp led to asking questions about larger social structures at work in the world which led to going to graduate school and a career as a professor!
Another famous camper, Disney’s Michael Eisner, credits his many happy years at camp for teaching him to be honest, loyal and “willing to help the other fellow.” He’s quoted as saying, “Working in business can be another canoe trip!” You can read more about the impact camp had on Eisner’s life and career in his book Camp where he shares his memories and multiple lessons learned. If you’re a social and outgoing person and drawn to the opportunity to lead with enthusiasm, camp counselor could be the summer job for you–check out the AFSC website for more information.
Recently some camp counselors shared what they’ve learned on the job and I’d like to highlight two important concepts they talked about. Think of this as your basic introduction to camp counselor skills and also how important professional development is to your overall future:
1. Time management
High school students often focus on preparing for college by earning acceptable grades and participating in additional activities. While these strategies are essential to the process, students too often rely on parents/care givers for structure and reminders and fail to understand that managing time is one of the most important skill required for college success. Across the United States, students with ability and good intentions often struggle in college, just because they have not learned to schedule assignments, work, reading and most importantly the time they spend having fun or relaxing.
In contrast, one past camp counselor explains, “time management is crucial at camp,” and even if you are familiar with regimented schedules, “a camp counselor is responsible for keeping others in line with the daily schedule.” So the job requires not only learning to manage time personally, but also for large groups and that becomes a skill counselors develop. Camp counselors also “learn to be disciplinarians in strategic ways.” These skills are essential and applicable to keeping an undergraduate student motivated to complete assignments and participate in college activities. So, since professional experience at camp requires “all counselors to be responsible,” and to “learn to be accountable for personal actions as well as those of others,” camp counselors benefit in multiple ways.
Working as a camp counselor is also the perfect component to rounding out a year of personal and professional growth by managing the time between semesters! As students mature and move into the realm of adulthood, they often have to face the reality that they are not completely self sufficient.
2. Independence and freedom
Once a young adult goes to college, no matter how much they miss home or home cooking, they are changed forever! One past camp counselor puts it this way, “After my first undergraduate winter break back home I decided I didn’t want to return home for three months during summer. College gave me independence/freedom from parental supervision, and I wanted to continue the experience through summer employment.”
So, as you can see, being a camp counselor is a great fit for young adults who expect to do more than the minimum. Since campers often want to prolong their time at summer camp, they can also take it to the next level as counselors. After repeat summers a few even go on to fill additional camp staff positions before making their mark in other careers!
What’s your plan for personal growth next summer? Do you see “camp counselor” in your future?
According to American Camp Association (ACA) CEO Peg Smith, approximately 1.2 million camp staff make summer camp happen each year. Camp counselors are a large group in that staggering number and many are also college students who not only earn money for school but also professional experience, resume-building skills and learn a lot about themselves!
Smith says that summer camp provides a unique learning experience for college students since “a camp job offers real life experiences and a hands-on education that simply cannot be found in a classroom.” If you’re looking for a way to earn money and also develop and grow as a person, summer camp is a place where children and adults come together to form a unique community. It’s a job that you can take seriously and share what you know—but also learn—from staff and campers.
Here are some benefits you can expect from the job:
No research then writing arguments here! You’ll have to master real-life, problem-solving skills in the moment, like how to get your campers to clean up and go to activities on time.
You’ll be a role model and surrogate parent for children who grow to love and respect you while you have a significant and positive influence in their lives.
As you care for and encourage others, you’ll develop greater self-understanding. You’re moving into adulthood and it shows in the way you treat others and make choices for yourself!
You’ve heard about “networking,” and this is where it starts—you’ll develop and expand a network of peer relations that can last a lifetime.
Do you want to know more? Find out about camp counselor opportunities at Camp Weequahic and how you can combine earning money for college, professional and personal development and yes, a little camp fun!
Thanks for the image JacobEnos.In an earlier post, we discussed one of the primary concerns parents have about summer camp – will my child be safe? This week, we wanted to talk about the people who care for our kids at camp and keep them safe; how they are chosen and trained to do their jobs. When you’re putting the care of your children into other people’s hands, it’s important to have confidence in their caretakers. At Weequahic, not only does every person who works at camp have to love working with kids, they all also have to be good at it and have the skills to be a success.
Building a good staff begins with selecting the right personnel. We focus year round on finding, recruiting, and selecting the best qualified counselors to live and work with the children. Most of our head counselors, group leaders, campus leaders and department heads have been with their camps at least five years, and some have returned every summer for 20 years! All are professionally-trained educators and coaches who have proven their ability to instruct a particular activity. The counselors, who have the most direct contact with your camper, have all completed at least their first year of college (with many further on), and go through a rigorous interview and selection process, and reference and background checks. We recruit counselors from over 100 different colleges around the country and many fine universities throughout the world. Just over half of the counselors return from year to year, with many only ending their counseling careers when they graduate college and move on to real-world schedules (no more free summers!)
Of course, selecting the right people is only the beginning of the process of creating a successful staff. The counselors must also be trained and oriented to the camp’s particular processes, schedules and procedures. To do so, all staff must complete a week-long Orientation. We are especially lucky to have large groups of former campers who return to be counselors. They know the camp traditions and songs, and, more importantly, they remember what camp looks like from the point of view of the campers. At Orientation, they can share their experiences with new staff members and serve as ambassadors for our particular mission and traditions.
The seven-day day Orientation is filled with training in individual responsibilities, working with the campers, and of course, health, safety, and emergency procedures. Such intensive training ensures that counselors aren’t just up to speed with the programs but also child development and the best techniques for working with kids in the cabins. We bring in outside speakers to provide info on contemporary issues for schools and homes as well as advanced skills for working with other people’s children and those responsibilities.We also meet with counselors and go over each individual child’s information and specific issues that might arise over the course of the summer. By the time the campers arrive, the counselors have a great understanding of every child in their care, gleaned from information from the director’s meetings with parents, the camper’s profile information forms, and past years’ knowledge of returning campers. Even the group and campus leaders know the children well, since they are mostly veterans who watch the children grow over time. Orientation is fun, and the trainers work hard to create a feeling of unity and team amongst the staff.
Beyond the formal week long Orientation, over half of the individual activity instructors (waterfront, rock climbing, mountain biking, etc.) come to camp early, with key staff and counselors often training three weeks prior to Orientation. Counselors who are responsible for specific program areas are also trained to write lesson plans and taught how to execute a fun and instructional activity period. Each attends an entire training day devoted to teaching kids their particular activities and making it fun. Finally, every camp staff member is well-trained in general safety procedures and first aid, with additional courses and certifications dependent on counselor responsibilities.
All this training and teamwork that begins in Orientation quickly spills over into a great summer for the kids. But the seven days of Orientation before camp starts is just the beginning. Camp staff attend weekly meetings and trainings, and everyone receives ongoing support from their supervisors on a daily basis. Without a well-trained staff, no camp can have a successful season. The right people – people who love children and are good at working with them – create the foundation for a terrific summer of experiences and memories for the most important people on campus, your children.
We take our 10 month ‘off season’ to plan for 2 months of fun (and safety) and excitement (and growth)! For me, this means meeting every family interested in Weequahic for next summer. (Well, almost every family. I have yet to make it to Spain…).
Home visits are my favorite part of the ‘off season.’ I get to see the children in their home environment – how they interact with their parents, what games do they like to play, how engaged they are in the process of choosing a camp, etc.
These visits also help me better understand their families as well. We are big believers in the importance of a whole family approach to Weequahic and do our best to provide both the camper and their family an exceptional summer experience.
Home visits represent an invaluable experience for me, especially when putting the bunks together or speaking with parents during the summer. Therefore, I enter every home with a list of questions I want to explore. I suggest parents approach these meeting in the same manner.
Now, every family is different. Some have no camp experience to draw upon. Sometimes, both parents went to camp for many years. (More often than not at Weequahic, one parent enjoyed camp at least once.) Regardless of your level of camp experience, here are a few questions I think you should ask of any camp director:
Who are your counselors? How do you find and train them? How old are they and how many live with the kids in the bunk?
Who supervises the counselors? What is their background?
What is the program day like? Do our children choose any, some, or all of the daily activities? Will my child participate in activities with boys and girls of any age or is it more structured?
What sets your camp apart from others?
Where do your campers come from? How do you place new campers into your community?
When is visiting day and how does that work?
How will my child get to camp? What about their luggage? Please explain the first day at camp to me so we know what to expect.
While this is not an exhaustive list of questions, I believe these are some of the most important. The director, or whoever visits your home, will not be the one providing direct care for your child. However, the director must, in my opinion, have a major influence on the staff selection and training, the bunk life for each child, and much more. The answers to these questions will provide a more thorough understanding of the philosophies behind the camp.
The families who approach home visits with a list of questions and specific information they want to receive will have a much better chance in making the right choice for their child. If we can help, don’t hesitate to call! (And, if you can think of some other questions you’d like answered, please post them here!)