5 Reasons Why You Should Be a Camp Counselor This Summer
Back when I was 22, I had the privilege of becoming a summer camp counselor. It was pretty random how I ended up landing the job, but it turned out to be one of the best things that has ever happened to me. The friends I made, the fun I had, and the lessons I learned will always stick with me. To this day, I would still suggest the job for anyone who enjoys the outdoors and loves bringing a smile to other people's faces.
Camp counseling is an interesting profession because you put in a ton of hours, but you are doing things that are so fun it is hard to consider it a job. My two summers were spent at the Bob Campbell Youth Campus in Hendersonville, NC. If you pass through the area or need something to do for the summer, I highly encourage you to check it out. If you are still riding the fence on whether or not being a summer camp counselor is for you, let me share a handful of the lessons I learned while living and working at camp.
Money Does Not Always Equal Happiness
The first and probably most obvious lesson I learned as a counselor is that money is not everything in life. If you are looking for a summer job that is going to make you a ton of money, this is definitely not the profession you want to sign up for. However if you enjoy bringing smiles to people's faces, meeting new friends, and experiencing new activities on a daily basis, I would highly recommend you give it a try.
Back when I was a counselor, I can remember sitting around one night trying to figure out the exact hourly rate that we were receiving. It was hard to compute because we were technically on-duty for as long as we were at the camp. If an emergency arose during the night, we were still expected to perform our duties, and we were always in action from sunrise until the campers went to bed at night. The hourly rate that we came up with was insanely small, but it did not stop any of us from wanting to do the job. As a matter of fact, we all knew that given the choice we would do it again in a heartbeat. Some of us probably would have done it on a volunteer basis if the job were presented to us in that way.
I guess the point of it all is that the joy of the job does not come from the money that you make from it. The moments that you share with the campers and your fellow counselors are priceless, and you will remember them well after the money has been spent. Looking back at it all, I do not regret passing over higher paying summer jobs because I know that I made a positive difference in the life of a child.
Would you be willing to take less money for a more enjoyable job?
Never Too Late to Expand Your Comfort Circle
The first week we met up at the camp for orientation, we got to do all of the activities that the campers would be doing for the rest of the summer. There were plenty of things that I was already familiar with like fishing, swimming, and arts and crafts. However, I also had the opportunity to try wall climbing, canoeing, and archery. Those were things that were completely new to me even though I was 22 at the time.
As we were learning about the activities and the best way to facilitate them for our campers, the camp director kept stressing to us that being a counselor and a camper in general is about expanding our comfort zones. This was evident every day when we tried new activities that we were not familiar with, but also in our everyday exchanges with our fellow counselors. Many of us were from different backgrounds, and if we had met on a college campus we might not have given each other the time of day. But since we worked together, we found ways to break down our differences and become friends. We learned from each other and built extremely tight bonds over the course of a few months. I am still close with many of the counselors I worked with over 10 years ago!
Everyone Has an Inner Child
I remember sitting with a group of counselors before our first session being worried about how the children would react to us. We finally figured that their reactions would be based on the amount of energy that we displayed when they got to camp. When the bus pulled up, we bolted out to meet them and it was amazing to see how they lit up even though they did not know us yet. During the course of the week no matter how tired we were, we always kept up our energy and positive outlook, and it worked wonders for us.
As we taught classes and lived around the camp, it became evident that none of us were being fake. We all genuinely loved being there, and it was so easy to be carefree in that environment. When we sang songs at the campfire, the counselors were just as loud as the campers. When we played games, the counselors were right there volunteering to play as well. We did not do this because we felt obligated, but rather because it was fun to be able to do these things again. It was like a bonus to be able to have a great time and be a child again, and still get paid for it at the end of the day.
Never Underestimate a Child's Experiences
The camp I worked for dealt primarily with children from underprivileged backgrounds. There were some kids who had never seen the mountains or even been away from home for more than a day or two. We even had a few campers who had never eaten pizza before they got to camp. It was an incredible experience to see each of them grow during their week at the camp. In some cases we were able to see huge differences in a child's attitude and openness during their time with us.
However, it was not just the children who grew. I felt that I learned just as much from the kids as they learned from me. Each one of them shared an important piece of their life with me, and in turn helped me to appreciate my own upbringing and where I was in my life at that point. I remember staying up late in a cabin of 14 and 15 year-olds from Jackson, Mississippi and hearing about the tough things they had to live through. It made my problems seem so small at that point, but at the same time I knew that I was providing a positive distraction for them during that week.
The Power of Leaving Behind a Legacy
The end of the summer was always a very difficult thing for us. It was sad to see the last bus full of campers go away, and to see our fellow counselors packing up to go home. We often looked at each other and wondered if we made a difference in the children's lives and if they would remember us when they got back home. We knew in our heart that even if not every child was receptive to us, that there was always going to be at least one who would never forget their week at camp. Knowing that made all the difference, and assured each of us that we had done the right thing by becoming counselors. Even today I find myself wondering where certain kids are and how their lives have turned out so far. I can only hope that they still wonder the same about me.
Does the thought of being a role model scare you?
If I have to be remembered for something, I want it remembered that I really liked children and was a good camp counselor.— Francis Ford Coppola