Submitted by Michelle Merritt, National Venturing Vice President and New England Base Camp Program Director
Over the past four summers, I have had the privilege of being outside on the hottest days of the summer, wrangling elementary aged kids into activities, sleeping in a cramped cabin, and not having access to the internet; and I have enjoyed every second of it. Camp staff know that the hottest days are those when the camp gets free swim, kids will love the camp program, the cabin is full of five of your best friends, and a lack of internet means that we can take a break from summer homework and internet.
Being a camp councilor provided me with life experiences that I never could have dreamed of. I have the skills to be a lifeguard, work with kids, provide customer service to adults, manage and lead other staff members, and create a program that will keep kids entertained and learning for days on end. A unique facet to being a camp councilor is the responsibility placed upon you. I was trusted to teach kids sports and swimming, to guard their swimming activities, and to ensure that they got to bed safely. This level of responsibility caused me to rise to the challenge and become more mature. Not many other summer gigs can get you life skills and experience like camp staff.
Every time I go back for one more year of camp, I always get asked “Why do you want to go back to camp again?”. I go back because nothing is more fulfilling than having a homesick camper stay at camp because you talked with them. Nothing is more fun than sharing the experiences of the day with other staff members back in the cabin late at night. And nothing can stop me from smiling during a heartfelt performance of “The Invisible Bench” skit. Yes, it is a lot of work, I’m always sunburned, and sometimes I can’t tell if I’m covered in dirt or bruises, but none of that matters if I have made a difference. There is a famous quote that reads “One hundred years from now, it won’t matter what car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much I had in my bank account, nor what my clothes looked like. But, the world may be a little better, because I was important in the life of a child.” Many summer camps, including Lone Tree Scout Reservation, have this posted somewhere in camp to remind staff (and others) what is truly important. I know that I have helped keep kids in Scouting, inspire a love of the outdoors, discover a new passion, and feel accomplished.
Helping people is a great part of my job but I gain a lot from them as well. Camp staffs have to overcome unique challenges and this causes them to quickly develop into “camp families” with surrogate brothers, sisters, moms, and dads. My camp family always has my back and I have theirs. The relationships that started four summers ago have developed into lifelong friendships. Camp enabled me to develop a sense of confidence. I promise, if you get up in front of a large group and sing a songs about bears, moose, and red wagons enough times, any fears of public speaking will disappear. The responsibility that I felt for the campers and for the camp also instilled this confidence.
I could get an internship, a more typical summer job, or sit and watch Netflix in the air conditioning all summer but instead I work on camp staff. I am the person I am today because of the experiences I have had at camp and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Someday I will probably have to stop working at the camps I love so much but I know that while I was there I made a difference and learned something new. If you are looking for the experience of a life time and a way to grow as a person, I would suggest you apply to be on camp staff in the coming year.