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.
There aren’t many places children can go to be surrounded by positive role models that provide them the opportunity to develop relationships on multiple levels. For most kids, adult mentors consist of parents, coaches and teachers. There’s one place, however, where children are surrounded by mentors on multiple levels 24/7: summer camp. Most summer camps have very high staff to camper ratios, which means there is never a shortage of grownups from whom campers can seek guidance and leadership. Of course, everyone knows that role models are important in the lives of children, but we often simply forget to take the time to consider that having different role models is equally crucial until we’re reminded of this by the campers themselves.
A senior camper at one of America’s Finest Summer Camps recentlyobserved there are so many leaders at camp that you never feel like there’s no one to go to when the need arises. This is very true. There are coaches to help children improve their skills and reach athletic goals. There are counselors to provide guidance through daily activities. There are Head Counselors and Division Heads to help out with the bigger, more complicated aspects of camp. And there are Directors who make it their business to make sure everyone has fun and stays safe. Then there is also the myriad of other staff who work in camp offices, kitchens and health centers. Regardless of which role any of these people fulfill, they’re all working at summer camp for one reason: they have opted to dedicate their summers to having a positive impact on the lives of children. And, the campers’ best interests are their first priority. There aren’t many institutions that can make a similar claim.
As leaders and mentors, camp staff bring a passion to their jobs that anyone who makes a decision to dedicate themselves 24/7 to a job must have in order to be successful. They voluntarily give up sleep, time with family and free-time in order to be a part of summer camp and their dedication shows through their interaction with their campers. The relationship is symbiotic. Campers understand that staff find as much value in the summer camp experience as they do, which develops into a mutual confidence and trust.
Social learning is the psychological concept that places value on the necessity of good role models in the lives of children, which is perhaps why camp is an ideal place for campers to get the most out of being surrounded by so many role models. Summer camp is somewhat of a microcosm of an ideal society. It’s a self-contained arena in which people live alongside one another in an environment that is most harmonious when everyone supports the successes of those around them.