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.
According to statistics, there are an estimated 1.2 million camp staff in the United States, and the numbers continue to grow steadily. Now, you might think – “why should I get a camp job over an internship?” Well, working at a camp gives you the opportunity to earn more than just cash. Internships are all about gaining skills and that’s exactly what working at a camp provides, but the question here is that how working at a camp is better than an internship?
The biggest reason why it is better is because working in a camp helps you develop skills that will not only build your resume, but also last you a long time to come. You have the opportunity to lead from the front and solve problems, in addition to fulfilling your responsibilities with utmost sincerity. A camp simply offers real-life experiences that cannot be learnt behind an office desk.
Benefits of Working at a Camp
There are many benefits you can gain by working at a camp. Below we have listed some of the most common:
You develop better self-understanding
You enhance personal growth
You master problem-solving skills
Have positive and significant influence in the lives of children
You expand/develop a network of peer relations.
How is Working at a Camp Better than an Internship?
Here are a few convincing reasons you should consider working at a camp:
It Builds Character Along with Your Resume
If you do not have character, your resume is pretty much useless. If you make a comparison, you will notice that most interns count the minutes until they are finally done with work, and on the other hand, camp counselors and camp staff dedicate their summers. So, why do they do it? That’s simply because they enjoy what they do. When you work at a camp, you learn to dedicate your time for things besides yourself, as you have the opportunity to deal with adults, kids and other counselors.
It’s Not Only about the Money
When you work at a camp, you not only show up every morning because you are getting good money. You show up because your job involves spreading smiles and happiness. You are not confined to an undersized desk, relentlessly waiting for payday.
You Make Kids Smile Instead of Customers
It’s not uncommon to come across interns pretending to be extra nice, so that they can make a sale. A camp job, however, revolves around campers and making them happy. Getting an authentic laugh or smile out of a camper is something more pleasing and enjoyable than selling a particular product to a random guy.
You Learn to Be Selfless Not Selfish
While interns spend most of their time pretending to be busy or surfing the web, every minute you spend in camp is devoted to the campers. Each minute of your time is spent for others, not just for yourself. After all, have you ever seen an intern worrying about the progress of their company they work for, as much as they do for themselves?
So, if you have been considering a job, why not go for it, as you will gain experience and skills that will definitely be of use to you in the future.
In their book True North, Bill George and Peter Sims challenge readers to examine the qualities and influences that have made them great leaders through a series of motivational chapters complemented by interactive surveys. In the survey that follows the first chapter, readers are asked: “During your early years, which people had the greatest impact on you?” This is a very significant question to anyone who either attended camp as a child or who works at a camp as an adult.
It only takes a single summer to influence a camper for a lifetime, but the majority of campers attend summer camp for seven summers or more, which exponentially increases the chances of camp counselors having a lasting impact on their lives. Add the community environment of camp in which campers and staff live together 24 hours a day, and it’s nearly impossible to imagine that each camper’s life is not greatly impacted by at least one member of the camp staff. Such a conclusion is evident by the amount of former campers who state the influence of former staff members as one of the primary reasons they chose to return to camp as camp counselors themselves.
George and Sims challenge readers to “discern passion through life experience.” Such an intense task puts the role of camp counselors into a newperspective. Not only do counselors have the ability to greatly impact a child’s life, but to inspire passion in them through the experiences they provide at camp. This is an interesting concept because it is not one about which most camp staff tend to reflect throughout the summer. Camp is a temporary environment that is structured with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Combine this with the fast pace of camp, thinking tends to steer in the opposite direction. Yet, many campers –and even counselors– are so influenced by their camp experiences that they take away a passion for camp as well as the traditions and values they are taught there.
When examined from such a perspective, the role of camp counselors becomes so much more than a summer job, whether a staff member spends one summer or many summers at camp. When counselors pack their bags each summer and head off to camp, they are taking on the tremendous responsibility of inspiring children to become so deeply invested in the camp experience. It’s neither a small nor insignificant challenge. Yet the hurdles of living up to such high expectations is exactly what draws so many camp counselors to their summer camp roles each summer—and what makes them return in subsequent summers. In this regard, the campers have as much influence and inspire as much passion in the counselors as the counselors do to them. The two roles are interdependent.
It’s easy to go through one’s daily life without slowing enough to properly contemplate the potential influence each of us has over others. But when the concept of influence is examined through the perspective of camp, it’s very easy to see how little time is needed to influence someone for a lifetime.
Our campers are having a safe and fun summer thanks to all our staff but especially to our Division Heads. Our DH’s are the cream of the crop; they are very experienced with kids and are well respected in their communities. Alicia Willis is no exception and returned to Camp Weequahic this year for her sixth summer with us. Five summers ago, she was a counselor for Jinter girls and a gymnastics coach at Camp Weequahic. Her energy, work ethic, and ability to connect with all the campers make her well known and beloved by everyone at Camp Weequahic. We decided to ask Alicia a few questions to see what makes her time at Camp Weequahic so special.
Camp Weequahic: Hi Alicia. We’ve been lucky to have you with us for six years. We’d love to ask you a few questions about your time at Camp Weequahic. Tell us a little about your background.
Alicia: I am from Canada, born near the American border in the town of Sarnia, Ontario. I recently graduated with a Masters of Social Work. I have two siblings, one older brother and a younger sister. We are extremely close. In my free time I like to walk down to the beach with a good book or watch a movie with the family.
Camp Weequahic: What is your experience working with children?
Alicia: I have worked with children in multiple settings including my church, school, and other community centers in my neighborhood. I have also worked at Camp Weequahic for 6 summers in many roles including bunk counselor for 4 years and coaching gymnastics. I was a division head for Junior girls last summer. I’m excited to work with the Jinters this summer!
Camp Weequahic: We have loved having you for six summers. You have helped make Camp Weequahic the place it is today. What does camp mean to you?
Alicia: It is hard to put into words what Weequahic means to me. Camp is a place where unlikely friendships become strong life long bonds. Weequahic is a place where people can be their true self and all personalities are welcomed. It has quickly become my home for the months of June, July, and August. My home away from home.
Camp Weequahic: Camp is definitely a place to make amazing memories. We have countless examples of lifelong friendships formed at Camp Weequahic, all possible because of staff members like you. What are some of your goals for the summer?
Alicia: I want to be a positive support for the counselors and campers to ensure that the summer will be memorable for all. I am really excited for the new challenge spending time with 5th and 6th grade girls. I started as a counselor for this division, and I am excited to be back with this age group.
Camp Weequahic: We are so excited to have you back with this group. We know you’re doing an amazing job. What is your favorite camp activity?
Alicia: Gymnastics, of course! My first 4 years at camp I was a gymnastics coach and loved every minute of being in the gym. I believe it is the best place to be at camp. If ever someone wants to learn how to fly, the gym is the place to start.
Camp Weequahic. Many of our campers love gymnastics, the gym is always full of campers learning new tricks and skills. Lastly, tell us a fun fact about you.
Alicia: My first language is English, but when I was younger, I learned how to read in French before I could read in English.
Camp Weequahic: Oh wow, that’s really interesting. We love learning the different backgrounds of our staff and campers. Thanks Alicia for talking with us today! We’re excited to see what this summer has in store for us!
A fun summer at Camp Weequahic is only possible because of hard working staff members like Erica Linnell, our dance specialist. Dance is not her only interest; she will be attending medical school this August. We asked Erica to fill out a profile for our readers to show an inside scoop on the background of our talented employees.
Name: Erica Linnell
Role at camp: Dance specialist
Years at camp: 3rd year
Tell us a little about your background.
I graduated from Vanderbilt University with a B.A. in neuroscience in 2013, and I will be starting medical school at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson this August. I was on the dance team at Vanderbilt, and I was also on a dance competition team for 10 years growing up.
What do you get out of working with children?
Working with children at camp has given me the opportunity to develop better leadership skills and mature as a person. It is a challenging and rewarding experience in that it allows me to really make a difference in the lives of children and help them grow over the course of the summer.
What does camp mean to you?
Camp means family, friendship, community, and development. Camp Weequahic is especially unique in that everyone from the youngest six-seven year old campers to the camp directors becomes a close family where everyone is accepted. We all have the chance to learn something new from each other and grow together as a community.
What are some of your goals for the summer?
This summer I hope to make a difference in the lives of kids and to continue to develop as a leader and caretaker. My goal is to make this one of the best and most fun summers yet for the campers and staff at Camp Weequahic.
Favorite camp activity: Tubing and Ropes Course (other than dance!)
Tell us a Fun Fact about you:
I love to travel and experience new places, especially historical sites. I have traveled to places such as Indonesia, Europe, Central America, Africa, the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Alaska. My favorite vacation was a safari in Tanzania!
It’s interesting how many times throughout the summer counselors are overheard beginning a sentence with the phrase ‘I never thought I would…’ Working at sleepaway camp is truly a collection of ‘I never thought I would…’ moments. All too often, those are also the remarks that speak for camp itself, because they’re epiphanies from the staff members themselves. Although the “I never thought I would…’ comments are as varied as the counselors, there are a few that consistently come up. From the mouths of the staff members themselves, ‘I never thought I would…’
Make so many new friends
Sure, I came to camp expecting to meet a few new people. But I’ve made dozens of friends this summer from all over the world. I feel closer to some of them than I do to people I’ve known for years. I never imagined that I could grow so close to someone in just a few weeks. I’ve wanted to travel abroad for years, but have been scared of going places where I didn’t know the language or the people. Now I can’t wait to go knowing that my new camp friends are going to be there waiting for me!
Be so enthusiastic about little things
One of the most awesome things about working at summer camp is that even the smallest of details are a big deal. The campers getexcited and I can’t help but feel it too. Going to our favorite activity during the day; getting ready for an evening activity; walking into a meal and seeing that it’s my favorite; telling silly knock-knock jokes in our cabin at night; and, in particular, those moments when I really connect with my campers.
Like working so hard
Camp is hard work! I start early in the morning and end late at night. It’s TOTALLY worth it though! I’ve never had so much fun in my life. Sometimes I forget that this is a job and I’m getting paid. So much happens in one day of camp. At night, I lay in bed and try to remember everything that happened during the day just because I don’t want to forget. I’ve started keeping a journal of my days at camp. This winter, when it’s cold outside and I’m missing camp, I’m going to read it. I’m so glad I decided to work at camp instead of accept an internship. This is SO much better than an office! Now I know I want to spend the rest of my life working with kids.
Talk a camper through something difficult
There are a lot of activities at camp and some of them require courage—especially if you’re a kid. I can’t imagine having the guts to maneuver a ropes course thirty feet in the air when I was ten. I really admire so many of my campers for trying brave and adventurous activities. The best part is being able to give the ones who are a little scared that extra push that they need to take on the adventure. There is nothing more gratifying than a smile and a high-five from a camper who just did something they thought they never could and knowing that I helped them do it.
Live so much in the moment
At camp, it’s simultaneously easy and impossible to forget about how short my time here really is.Every day just flies by, which is also reminder that the end of camp is one day closer. I find myself really wishing that I could slow down time, and I’ve started making an extra effort every day to savor each and every moment of camp. Doing so has made me very conscious of how much time I spend in my everyday life planning and thinking ahead. It’s really nice to keep things in the now. I hope to apply my new focus on living in the moment when I return home at the end of the summer, and stop spending so much time thinking about tomorrow.
Become so attached to my campers
I never imagined that I could become so close to a group of kids. I came to camp to be their leader. But it’s so much more than that. It’s impossible not to be attached after spending so much time with them at activities, at meals, in the cabin and getting to know them one-on-one. It’s blows my mind to think that I’ve become so attuned to their individual personalities in such a short amount of time. The summer isn’t even over, and I already know that I’m going to miss them.
Are you experiencing it yet? The ‘Oh no, summer is almost here and I still don’t have a summer job yet!’ panic?
Maybe you visited a job fair a couple of months ago, met a camp recruiter, and briefly thought about working at summer camp. It certainly sounded like fun, and it would definitely be different than any other summer job you’ve ever had. But you decided to put off the decision. Oh, how time flies when you’re taking exams and busy planning spring break.
Now, you’re just a little over a month from packing up your dorm room and wondering where you’re going to go. There is home, of course. But if you’ve been hoping for something slightly more exciting this summer, consider revisiting the idea of working at summer camp. It’s not too late.
While it’s true that many camps are filling those final empty positions, if you have a unique or unusual talent, that just might work in your favor. Most of the positions camps are currently filling are those that are hardest to fill, meaning that they require some sort of specialized knowledge that not a lot of people have. What kind of specialized knowledge? Think creatively. Are you good in the kitchen? Maybe you are Shaun White on a skateboard, a Zumba enthusiast, know how to fire a kiln, operate a band saw, sew or build rockets. These are just a few of the specialty hobby or niche programs for which camps sometimes have difficulty finding just the right person. Before assuming that there is no place for you on a summer camp staff, do a little bit of research. You never know when a camp may be looking for someone just like you.
This isn’t to say that if you’re not particularly gifted in anything special that there is no place for you. Sometimes staff members who have signed on for the summer score that last minute dream internship or have to withdraw for personal reasons, leaving camps with positions to fill that require common skills. The point is that although openings are dwindling fast, it’s not too late.
Even though camp is three months away, snow covers the ground in many locations and you just barely finished making spring break plans, if you’ve committed to working at a summer camp, it’s already time to begin thinking about the summer. Here are five camp things to begin thinking about in the spring:
1.) Make travel arrangements. How will you be getting to camp? Will you drive, fly, carpool? If you plan to fly, airline tickets are often less expensive in the early spring before the weather warms and people begin making summer vacation plans. Carpooling is a great way to get to know co-workers while splitting the cost of fuel. If you plan to carpool, reach out to other camp staff through your camp’s Facebook page or other resources offered by your camp and begin to get to know others from your area who may be interested in traveling together. If your camp offers travel reimbursement as part of your contract, it’s also very important that you understand the reimbursement process prior to making travel plans.
2.) Set goals. Camp is a work experience like no other and it can be a bit overwhelming at first. Setting goals prior to arriving helps minimize culture shock. When setting goals it’s important to keep an open mind. Summers at camp tend to have a lot of twists and turns. Your list will likely evolve as you familiarize yourself with your new environment, and there are some things that will probably not pan out quite the way you initially envision them. That’s okay. The importance of setting goals is that they help you mentally prepare for the camp experience and arrive with some sense of direction.
3.) Begin stockpiling…but not too much. Packing for camp is an art. Living space is very limited. At the same time, camps are usually in rural places that don’t have a lot of nearby shopping options, and limited access to computers and the internet make online shopping a bit more challenging too. So it’s extremely important to pack the right combination of items that can be easily replaced with those items that are difficult to come by or require a bit of a drive to acquire. Chances are, you will have several opportunities throughout the summer to replenish basic items such as shampoo, deodorant, sunscreen, etc. So if you need to maximize luggage space, pack just enough of these items to get you through the first couple of weeks. It’s a good idea, however, to begin thinking about acquiring certain items, such as bedding, towels and socks, that people tend to overlook until the last minute. By beginning to accumulate those items a few months ahead of time, you’ll avoid that last minute binge shopping trip in which something essential and perhaps not easily acquirable is inevitably forgotten.
4.) Complete forms. In the spring, your camp will either mail or make available online a series of forms. These forms may include a contract, standard employment forms, forms requesting information about how you intend to travel to camp, and forms that require medical and insurance information. Although completing paperwork is never the most exciting task, it is essential that you complete and submit these forms prior to your arrival at camp. First, the camp must have these completed forms in order to pay you or treat you for any medical emergencies or conditions. Second, many camps will not issue you id badges or uniforms until they have received these completed forms. Orientation is a very busy time and few staff members love the idea of having to take some of their downtime to complete paperwork.
5.) Learn about the camp. Presumably, you learned at least a little bit about the camp prior to accepting a job there. But now that you’re actually going to be part of it, really get to know it. Watch the camp video if you haven’t already. Re-watch it if you have. The camp video is a great way to preview the camp culture. Also, if your camp participates in any social media outlets (and many do these days), begin following them to get a sense of who your co-workers are as well as your camp’s values and traditions. Also, a lot of camps provide tips and updates for staff through their social media outlets as camp draws near. Of course, it’s impossible to get a full sense of what your camp is all about until you get there, but arriving with some sense of what (and who) to expect is a lot less disorienting than arriving with none.
We spend our entire ‘off season’ finding and training the best group of camp counselors. One of the biggest questions we ask ourselves about each candidate is “Will this person serve as a great mentor and role model for our campers?”
We recently heard a great description of a mentor: someone who walks beside or behind the one with whom they are working. When walking around camp, you can see this principle in action – kids laughing and learning next to young men and women who are there for them.
The term ‘mentor’ comes from Greek mythology.Odysseus, when leaving for the Trojan War, placed his son under the care of a good friend named Mentor. Athena, the goddess of wisdom and courage, later assumed the guise of Mentor in order to interact with and guide both Telemachus and Odysseus.
While our counselors are not ‘mythically powered’, they do come to Weequahic brimming with energy and prepared to give each child their best. Most want to become teachers and coaches later and life and see camp as a great opportunity to build a fun and safe community. Many were campers themselves and look forward to creating the same awesome experience that was created for them.
We at Weequahic are thrilled to create a situation in which college aged and older men and women serve as consistent, patient and committed mentors for our campers.
Summer camp employment is synonymous with “camp counselor” in most people’s minds. But there are a lot of non-counselor” positions at camp. If you’re interested in working at summer camp but don’t really think the role of camp counselor would be best for you, consider one of these alternatives:
Program/Activity Head: Are you or have you ever been a professional or college level athlete or coach? If so, and you’re interested in working at summer camp, then the Program/Activity Head role might be a perfect fit for you. Program/Activity Heads oversee a sport or activity at camp. They typically have a staff of counselor specialists who are also active in the sport or activity to assist with instruction and coaching. Program/Activity Heads plan daily activities, oversee instruction and assign campers to teams for intra and inter camp league play. There are also a handful of Program/Activity Head roles at camp for those who are not athletic but have some sort of niche expertise in areas like arts & crafts, music, dance, theater, cooking, science and communications.
Programming Staff: If you have a knack for scheduling, consider applying to work as part of a camp programming team. The camp programming staff is responsible for the daily camper and staff schedules. When creating schedules, they must keep in mind things like facility availability, staffing ratios and camper frequencies.
Special Events Staff: The special events staff at summer camp are responsible for all events that take place outside of the regular daily special. This is typically all evening activities and special days as well as (on that rare occasion) a rainy day. It helps if you have some sort of technical knowledge, such as connecting laptops to video screens, rigging microphones and operating (sometimes complicated) sound systems. But not everything you do as a special events staff member is hi-tech. You can also be charged with setting up a scavenger hunt, gathering and placing materials for game night or baking night, or a host of other things. The imagination is the limit. If you love fun and event planning and are detail oriented, special events might be the area of camp for you.
Photography/Videography: Camp photographer and videographer roles are highly specialized and extremely critical roles at camp. Every day, camp photographers take hundreds of photographs of daily activities and film many of the activities as well. If you’re a professional in either of these areas and are interested in working at summer camp, chances are there is a camp looking for you.
Camp Nurse: Summer camps maintain health centers and employ licensed nurses to dispense medication, clean up those inevitable scratches and cuts, and treat campers and staff who become ill during the summer. For those rare more severe injuries that sometimes occur, nurses also may be asked to accompany campers or staff to local hospitals or doctors’ offices.
Office Staff: If you prefer behind the scenes desk work and answering phone calls, then consider applying for a camp office staff job. Typically, office staff answer phone calls, sort mail, greet visitors, manage camper phone calls, prepare documents or mailings, and complete other administrative tasks.
Maintenance Staff: If you’re a handyman (or woman) who’s good with a hammer, loves landscaping and cleaning, and prefers being outdoors to inside, consider applying to work as a member of the maintenance team. Camp maintenance staff stay busy all summer long maintaining summer camp campuses, and no two days as a camp maintenance staff member are alike.
Kitchen Staff: Working in the camp kitchen is perfect for those who thrive in restaurant environments. If you’re a chef,caterer or member of a restaurant staff–or aspire to be one–then working in a summer camp kitchen is a fun alternative to restaurant work.
If any of these camp roles interest you, camps are hiring now. Many of the people who work in these role return year after year because they are a great way to integrate personal interests and specialized expertise with the fun and adventure of working at summer camp. Apply now and you just may find yourself returning year after year too.