Wiping the sweat from my brow after a long hard day, I looked at the smile on my camper's face and knew this was going to be one of the best summers of my life. In fact, it was the best summer of my life!
It was also the hardest work, longest hours, and the most responsibility I'd ever had. My summers as a camp counselor were not just a job, they were an experience and a continuous adventure.
Who would have thought my college summer breaks would be a time in life when I would learn so much. I learned to think of others before myself. I learned that my actions can help shape the attitude of those around me and that smiles are always contagious. I learned how to make kids laugh for hours with a broomstick and a flashlight when rainy days put a damper on outdoor activities.
I remember my time as a camp counselor during my college years as the best summers of my life! These are a few of the valuable lessons I learned that I will never forget.
Now, as the better part of my camp days are over, I look back and realize how very important those summers were working as a camp counselor.
Although I had wonderful experiences as a camper, it was those tough, fun summers as a counselor that shaped my life. For my colleague and I, college was a time in life meant for fun and freedom, but, most of all, an opportune time to be a counselor.
The benefits that are gained during young adulthood from being a camp counselor are numerous. Here are a few benefits of the job that have helped shape the course of our lives, to bring us where we are now as young professionals...
New Experiences: College students love adventures. The first choice is whether to stay close to home over the summer or venture off. The summer-long journey of camp will provide endless new experiences in a wide variety of settings in many different environments. The amount of information you will receive about different people, places and practices is irreplaceable.
Campers: Receiving a smile, a hug, a high five, wide eyes full of excitement, or a thank you mean so much more when they come from a child you've taken the time to invest in with your energy and concern.
Role Model: As a counselor you have the ability to connect with campers in a manner unlike any other person. The camper-counselor relationship provides the opportunity for kids to relate to young adults in a unique way. The opportunity to be a positive influence to a camper is readily available as a counselor. You can positively influence and change a camper's life in a relatively short span of time.
Leadership: On a daily basis you will have campers looking to you for direction. Leading campers in activities, competitions, and evening programs are typical responsibilities during a camp day. Camp also offers opportunities to be a leader within your staff as you may be a part of planning skit night, or organizing a large all camp competition. Leadership can be born in you or fostered.
Traditions & Rituals: Who won the pineapple hucka chucka contest? This is a phrase that can only be explained in the setting in which the experience was created. Camps are full of traditions and events that make the experience that more meaningful and bond you even more to a particular camp, campers, counselors, directors and special places around the country.
Personal Growth: Camp atmosphere provides the opportunity to be away from home during the "fun in the sun" months in an enjoyable, yet demanding setting, working with peers and children of all ages. Summer months provide an ample opportunity to make money while you engage in a variety of activities while exploring your own independence and who you are as a person.
Relationships: There is no relationship like the camp relationship. Where else do you eat, live, sleep and spend all day with the same people? Where the primary purpose of each activity is to have as much fun as you can? As a counselor, numerous relationships will be made with your campers, peers, co-counselors and supervisors. However, the most special relationship is that with a camper and is accentuated by the many roles they challenge you to fulfill while under your care.
Some of these roles might be teacher, sibling, friend, nurse, parent and many others.
Soooooo… camp directors and college students, take heed! Directors, search out those high energy, responsible college students, and college students, look for summer camps that provide an opportunity to enjoy the best summers of your life.
Erica Pratt is currently a graduate student in physical education at Springfield College. Erica has been a camper, counselor (head of department), unit director, and sports camp counselor throughout the past 16 years.
Jennifer Mathewson has been involved in camp for her whole life in the capacity of camper, counselor, wilderness guide, and leadership team. Jennifer is currently pursuing