I just finished my second year working at a sleepaway camp as a camp counselor. I took the job last year in hopes to gain more experience with children and adolescents. Nothing could prepare me for what I was about to experience! After my first summer, I was doubtful whether or not I’d go back. At the last minute, I decided to do so. My second year was completely different than my first year. I realized that my relationships with the campers were not the most important thing. My relationships with the other counselors were just as significant. I mean, when you’re practically living with the same people for the entire summer, you have to learn to get along!
I worked at Camp Woodmont, which is a co-ed camp for ages 6-14. It is located atop Lookout Mountain in north Georgia and is accredited by the American Camping Association (ACA). The camp is owned by Jim and Jane Bennett (affectionately known as “Mr. and Mrs. B”). They opened the camp in 1981. Their two children, Alyson Gondek and Tyran Bennett, serve as the camp directors. Mr. and Mrs. B, Alyson and Tyran all take a “hands-on” approach when it comes to running the camp. They take time to get to know each of the staff, as well as all the children that attend the camp over the summer. Unfortunately, Mr. B passed away in July of 2006 from complications with pulmonary fibrosis and stomach cancer.
Some people may think it’s an easy job to hang out at a camp all summer and play with kids, but there’s more to it. Each counselor lives in a cabin with children. The counselor has to forget about personal space and personal time. My life became all about the 8 girls in my cabin: the laughter and the drama. Not everyone has what it takes to be a summer camp counselor. At first, I didn’t think I did, but it has become the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.
The most important staff members to the campers are the counselors. The counselors live, work, play, and eat directly with the campers. They teach the campers new skills. They act as role models by teaching them how to recognize and develop their own potential.
Here are Camp Woodmont’s qualifications to be a Counselor:
1. 18 years of age or older with excellent leadership skills
2. College student or graduate with a love of children and people
3. Experience in roles of leadership
4. An outgoing, enthusiastic, positive personality
5. Excellent physical, mental, and emotional well-being and well-developed social skills
6. High morals, a sense of commitment, flexibility, and sense of humor
7. Ability to teach certain camp activities
Responsibilities of a counselor are the most important detail. The counselor has to live with and be responsible for a cbin of campers. They have to teach the campers how to live successfully with each other and how to keep the cabin and their possessions clean and orderly. Each counselor has to teach assigned camp activities in accordance with the philosophy of the camp. Counselors must be aware of safety in all areas of camp life. They have to be knowledgeable in First Aid and CPR. (Camp Woodmont requires that all counselors are certified in First Aid and CPR before hiring.) Counselors must work cooperatively with the rest of the staff in planning and carrying out a total program of camp activities which are fun, safe, challenging and interesting for all campers. Most importantly, counselors must treat all campers fairly. They have to try to bring out the best in each child by helping them achieve a high degree of self-esteem.
Not all camps are run exactly the same way, but the general idea is there. It’s important to remember that a summer camp is all about the campers, and the counselors are there to maintain safety and provide a fun environment. It’s a tasking job to be available 24 hours a day! As one of the climbing wall trainers said this summer: “It’s the best job you’ll love to hate.”
(If you’d like to read more on my adventures as a summer camp counselor, visit BonBonStories.blogspot.com .)