Camp Counselors Benefit From CampPosted by Alicia Theriault on May 19, 2017
Our purpose in camp is creating opportunities for personal growth and development for today’s girls. This is the underlying goal in everything that we do at Fernwood Cove. The benefits of camp are widely known and publicized. Much like an article from the American Camp Association, this information is often focused on the impact camp has on the lives of campers and CITs. While it’s amazing to know that camp impacts today’s youth in a multitude of ways, its impact isn’t limited to the participants. Camp impacts the lives of camp counselors too!
Through the organic nature of the experiential learning model staff learn and grow through their camp experiences as well. While it’s not the focus of our summers at Fernwood Cove, our counselors and staff finish each summer with a wealth of knowledge and skills they can use throughout the rest of their lives. Often Fernwood Cove is the first “real job” for camp counselors. They are faced with a huge learning curve when they enter the camp community for the first time and take on a job that asks them to wear many hats throughout the summer.
Growth and Development
As directors, we see this growth and development occur in staff members throughout the summer. Often staff don’t recognize the growth within themselves until they have returned home. Or when they are faced with challenges in the workplace. This is when we often hear from former staff members. They email or write letters to tell us how camp helped them gain confidence in themselves or helped them develop skills in communication and collaboration. They often contribute their abilities to overcome challenges and problem solve to their time working at camp. Nothing teaches problem solving like building a campfire with wet firewood or setting up a tent with broken poles!
The greatest impact on the growth and development we see in camp counselors comes when they return for multiple summers. The years of young adulthood are very formative years where we gain a better sense of self and establish true independence. As shown in a recent article written by American Camp Association President and CEO, Tom Rosenberg, the camp counselor experience supports this growth in a multitude of ways. There are few places that foster the understanding of giving for the greater good and working for the betterment of others the way camp does. When staff return summer after summer their dedication and connection to camp grow exponentially. Thus, it can be quite difficult when it is time for them to say their final goodbyes.
Camp Lives with Me Everyday
“I am literally in tears writing this email because camp means so much to me. It has been my home and the other half of my heart for 8 whole years. It saw me at 15, nervous, timid, and unsure of what I wanted, but ready for a new adventure. For years, camp protected me and allowed me to grow. It taught me the value of hard work and helped me to find the person that I wanted to be. So now I stand here at 23 feeling strong, confident, and once again ready for a new adventure. And I have you and the other Directors to thank for that.
I often get compliments at Disney on my ability to be a team player, and on my ability to walk into a situation and immediately have others trust my opinion and knowledge (even though I haven’t been at this for long). When people ask where I learned these skills, I tell them at camp. And they say, “oh cool, you went to camp! Where?” And then I tell them, “no I never went to camp but I worked at one for many years, and I swear the kids there taught me just as much as I taught them.”
Camp has been such a huge part of my life for so long, thinking about life without camp physically hurts. But the more that I think about it, the more I realize that I’m not really living without camp. Camp lives with me every day. It is what helped to shape who I am, and (as cheesy as it sounds) I will carry it with me forever. Honestly, I’m not sure what the future holds for me. I see myself doing so many different things. Performing, camp, teaching, Disney…who knows. But I do know that I will always have my time and experiences at camp to help me get through whatever life throws at me.
Ally Doyle (Summers 2010 – 2016)
The Courage to be Confident
“Listen, camp is as much for you as it is for these girls that you’re about to meet. If I had to choose only one thing that camp gave me that I will be forever grateful for, it’d be: knowing the directors’ children. Kidding – but they are a close second. Seriously though, Fernwood Cove gave me confidence. Or rather, Fernwood Cove gave me the courage to be confident.
Long story short – I taught myself to play the guitar when I was about 17. I rarely ever played in front of anyone. And as for singing – well, pigs would fly during a blue moon before that would happen. If you haven’t realized this by now, you will soon: at camp you can pursue dreams, try new things, take healthy risks, and step way outside your comfort zone and you’re going to have more than 300 people cheering you on as you do so.
So, one time, at summer camp, I played my guitar and sang in front of 300 people. And then I did it again, and again, and again. One time I did it on the tail end of laryngitis but it was all good because I was at camp and at camp nobody cares that your voice is squeaky and hoarse and raspy and off-pitch. Now that I’m back in the Ordinary World until further notice, I often post videos on Instagram of me doing quick little covers of some of my favorite songs. I don’t do it because I want to be the next social media sensation. I do it because I want my Fernwood Cove campers and CITs to see what a precious gift their support gave me (the courage/confidence thing). They may not realize it now, but goodness gracious am I thankful for their encouragement during the two summers I got to spend in the Extraordinary World.
Sara Hora (Summers 2013 & 2014)
Camp Counselors Are Capable
No, playing guitar and singing at Campfire doesn’t directly relate to the work place. And being successful at camp doesn’t guarantee success in adulthood. One thing the camp experience does guarantee is the opportunity to grow in unimaginable ways. To try new things, pick yourself up from failure, dust yourself off, and try again…with the entire camp community cheering you on. It is in this continual process that camp staff enter camp as timid and uncertain young adults and leave with a sense of confidence. They re-enter the Ordinary World with a greater sense of self. As a recent blog from the Bangor Daily News explains, camp counselors are capable.
Working at Fernwood Cove also instills a strong work ethic and an understanding of “taking care of the little things.” Camp counselors leave their camp experience having taken care of others and sacrificed their personal needs for the needs of others. They leave 350 Island Pond Road knowing that it’s not about the income- it’s about the outcome. Most importantly they leave the Extraordinary World knowing they can make a positive impact in the world. And that is something that we can all benefit from.