All Sides of the Summer Camp Counselor

All Sides of the Summer Camp Counselor

Summer camp counselors do more than lead the pack of kids in their charge. They become role models for campers to lean on throughout the camp journey. For teen counselors, it can provide a unique experience, whether they become a full-time counselor or special helper, such as volunteers at Lake Metroparks or Great Lakes Science Center. These counselors learn the art of creative thinking and how having a positive outlook can lead to a rewarding summer camp experience for all.

Featured here are a few counselors in Northeast Ohio and beyond who provide advice, along with discussing some benefits and challenges of the job.

Andrew Schultheiss
Age 17
Counselor at Falcon Camp in Carrollton, Ohio

 

 

 

 

 

Erica Fuste
Age 16, from San Juan, Puerto Rico
Counselor at Camp Roosevelt-Firebird in Bowerston, Ohio

 

 

 

 

Abigail (Abby) Goodman
Age 18
Counselor at Falcon Camp in Carrollton, Ohio

 

 

 

 

Why did you decide to become a camp counselor?

Andrew: I was a camper at Falcon camp for four years, and from those four years I grew to love Falcon, and its history and traditions. Thinking about my favorite memories as a camper made me want to become a counselor so I could help future campers make their own memories at camp.

Erica: I have been going to the same summer camp since 2009 and becoming a camp counselor was always something that I expected myself to do. When I was finally the right age to apply, there was no question as to whether I would work at camp that summer. It is truly something that I planned to do with my friends since I was just a kid.

What are the benefits to being a counselor?

Erica: I think that being a counselor gives you a sort of independence that is impossible to attain anywhere else. At just 16 years old, I was treated like an adult and given the same responsibilities as an adult. Being a counselor taught me how to be ready to accept and face any challenge that came my way. Leaving camp that summer I felt very independent and self-reliant. I felt even more responsible for not only myself, but for those around me, as well.

Abby: As a camp counselor you learn just as much, if not more, than what you teach. I have learned a lot about having empathy, patience and flexibility, which are incredibly important life lessons that I got to learn firsthand at camp. I learned how to look for ways to help out and to take charge of what I could. Additionally, being a camp counselor, you make really close bonds with the staff. I have friends from all over the world thanks to camp and have met some of the most amazing people through my job during the summers.

Name a challenge when working with kids and how you overcame it.

Andrew: Having respect between yourself and your campers is very important for having fun around camp, but also key to maintaining a safe, controlled camp environment. Being young, and at times close in age with the oldest campers, it is hard to maintain a relationship where they respect your authority. So to overcome that I learned to balance the way I act, juggling the all-important fun side of being a counselor with the rules and regulations.

What advice would you give new camp counselors?

Andrew: Always stay positive toward new tasks or aspects of camp. A positive mindset allows you to have a better time, and it rubs off on the campers, making camp a great environment.

Erica: I think that anyone who is trying to be a camp counselor should not doubt their decision or worry about it. I definitely would advise them to just dive into the challenge and enjoy every second of it. It is so amazing once you and your co-counselors and campers work past the ice breakers and just start to get to know each other. Being at camp, especially as a counselor, you can appreciate the diversity of international campers, as well as kids and cultures that you are never around. The people at camp are just so amazing, unique and special that anyone can and will become your best friend. Kids of all ages, genders and ethnicities all work together and just form such a strong and spectacular bond.

Abby: Engage yourself. Throw yourself completely into the job and look ridiculous doing it. Your involvement will spark the campers’ trust and excitement. Take pride in your job because it is important. Giving your kids someone they can really approach and look back and laugh about the things they did together will last throughout your campers’ lives. Never underestimate your impact on a child and always lead by example. Not only will they see someone they admire, but you will be able to see the change you can make in a child’s life, which is priceless.

What have you learned about working with kids and how do you think it will help you toward your future goals?

Andrew: I have learned patience through working with kids. I think this will be an immense help for my future endeavors because it is practical in many situations in the workplace, or even social settings.

Erica: When I’m older I want to study law, public policy, international affairs, etc. For this, it is super important that I understand how to work and interact with a plethora of personalities and people. I also have to understand how to see both sides to a story and truly make a decision that benefits and satisfies all parties involved. I had to remain objective at all times, something that was completely foreign to me until this past summer.

Abby: I’ve learned that generalization and blanket methods of stimulation don’t work. Adjustment is key and knowing how to motivate kids is much more individualized than I ever thought. You have to work to understand how to approach certain situations with certain kids and that really taught me how to see and appreciate differences within others. In the future, I know that this knowledge will help me in a huge way because you always have to know your audience, you have to do your research and fully invest yourself in whatever it is that you choose to do. Everyone works differently, everyone learns differently and when you realize that, you can really be successful at whatever you do.

DOUBLE DUTY

Jess Nestor, 31, is a Children’s Naturalist at Lake Metroparks who provides insight into camp counseling. In addition to her duties as a naturalist, she also is a counselor.

What are the benefits to being a counselor?

I have a unique position because at times I’m a counselor while still being a Naturalist. For me, there are so many benefits. You are always learning. You are always learning new teaching techniques, learning what campers’ needs and wants are for the camp, and learning more about yourself as a counselor. At Lake Metroparks, I’m not only a counselor to the campers, but we have a great group of junior volunteers who help with our camps, as well. The junior volunteers aren’t old enough to be counselors themselves yet, but they are gaining the experience and learning for when they are at the age to become a counselor. For me, that is a special extra benefit, seeing the campers move up from campers to junior volunteers to counselors.

What advice would you give new camp counselors?

For new camp counselors, I would suggest be patient, open minded, flexible and organized. Set yourself apart from other counselors. Maybe always sing a silly song, or wear a silly hat at times, something that helps the campers connect to you during the duration of the camp. Lastly, have fun and smile.

For information on researching, selecting and getting ready for camp, check out our Northeast Ohio Summer Camp Resource Page. It’s your complete guide to all things related to summer camp, including some great local options!

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