Month: November 2012

The Decision to Return to Summer Camp

Deciding to return to summer camp is a big decision that many families are already making.  Sure, it’s difficult to think about summer camp when the temperatures begin to plunge and the holidays are just around the corner.  However, it’s actually the perfect time to decide about returning to camp. The camp season is far enough removed that campers have had time to reflect on their summer.  Parents, also, likely have adequate feedback by now to be able to evaluate the value of sleepaway camp as registrations begin opening to returning campers and, in fact, at some camps, registration is almost complete. Beyond memories and adventures, there are many factors to consider, particularly as campers get older and new options begin to present themselves.  Here are some to think about:

Each summer is a new and unique experience highlighted by changes from year to year: the introduction of new activities as well as the tweaking of existing ones, fresh staff faces, new facilities or remodeled ones to accommodate new programs or expand popular ones.  Camp is truly never the exact same experience twice!

Aside from the physical changes to the camp program, campus, and staff, as children journey through their camp years, they look forward to age-specific traditions each year.  Some of them are relatively small, such as sitting at a special place during meals or a later wake-up in the mornings.  Others are fairly monumental–the trips get bigger and longer, the leadership roles become more significant, and the impact of the traditions themselves grows.

Bonds strengthen over time.  It’s always touching to hear returning campers talk about meeting their best friend at camp or share stories about their favorite counselors.  There is the intimacy of the bunk or cabin environment as well.  As children move through camp with their friends, they become very close.  Fresh opportunities also present themselves each summer for campers to make new friends while trying different things.

When one considers how much change happens at camp each summer, it’s easy to see that by not returning–even for a summer–campers miss out on something big!  The primary goal of sleepaway camps is to make sure campers are safe and have fun.  Their staffs work tirelessly during the winters and dedicate long hours during the summer to make each summer better than the last, which means that probably the most important thing to contemplate when deciding whether to return to camp is that next summer could be a camper’s best summer ever!

The Benefits of Counselor in Training and Counselor Assistant Programs

A recent article in the New York Times examined a father’s struggle with his daughter’s choice to forego a summer internship to spend the summer working at her former summer camp.  Upon first hearing of his daughter’s choice, the father was concerned that the camp counselor experience would not ultimately prove substantial on a resume.  However, upon further consideration, he concluded that the internship experience was overrated. Based on statistical data, those who have intern experience do not secure jobs any faster than those who do not, and  the well-rounded experience his daughter would gain while working at camp added to the benefit of being able to delay the start of an “office job.”

Even before entering college, former campers who’ve become too old to attend camp decide to enter their camp’s counselor in training program.  As the college student who was the subject of the her father’s New York Times debate, many parents of former campers find themselves wondering about the benefits of counselor assistant programs versus a year off from camp, teen tours, or a more traditional summer job.  In addition to providing a very good transition from the role of camper to staff member, counselor in training programs are a great foundation for college.

College is a clean slate for students.  When students leave high school, they also leave behind their reputations and accomplishments.  Like college is a place at which students have the opportunity to demonstrate that they attained the skills to succeed in college through high school, counselor assistants or counselors in training have the opportunity to demonstrate that years of being a camper have given them the skills required to be a good staff member.  As part campers, part staff members, they have opportunity to take initiative and show responsibility by performing some of the duties of a camp counselor.  In doing so, they also gain entry level work experience.  They are accountable for performing up to the standards set by their camp leadership, they report to multiple supervisors at various levels, and by nature of working twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week with children, they must perform jobs responsibilities with immediacy.

A counselor in training or counselor assistant program is also a great way to help teenagers choose a college.  Since counselor assistant or counselor in training groups tend to be smaller than other camp age groups, the smaller setting can help students decide whether they prefer a larger college with more students, like those of their younger camping days, or a smaller, more intimate setting like that of their counselor in training or counselor assistant group.  Living at camp is also time away from home that helps those thinking of college determine whether living away from home in a dorm setting or living at home while attending a local college is more to their preference.

Ultimately, regardless of whether a former camper decides to do a traditional internship once he or she gets to college, a year or two spent as a counselor in training or a counselor assistant could help build some of the most helpful tools for making some very important, life impacting decisions regarding college and work.