It’s no secret that most kids have the time of their lives at summer camp. But camp can be life changing for young adults, too. Spending an entire summer outdoors, mentoring children and working together as part of a team allow camp staffers to develop a wide range of valuable life and leadership skills.
“Camp is a place for discovery, connection, and growth for campers and counselors alike,” says Peg L. Smith, CEO of the American Camping Association. Last summer, 1.2 million young adults across the country joined the ranks of camp counselors and staff, according to the ACA.
What kind of difference can working at camp make? We asked three local professionals to share their experiences.
David Greene, SEO specialist at Summit Racing Equipment in Tallmadge
A native of London, England, Greene met his wife while they were both counselors at Akron Rotary Camp for children with special needs in the summer of 2004.
“One of the kids who had been deliberately set on fire by his mother turned to me on his last day at camp and said, ‘David, you’re like a brother and I’ll miss you.’ What job in the world has the sole job description of making kids happy? The only one I can think of is being a counselor.”
First as a counselor, then as director of programs, “the experience has given me the patience, understanding and leadership that are essential in the business world. It has prepared me for any situation that could be thrown my way in the workplace... They were the best summers of my life,” Greene says.
Joel Putnam, business facilitator for Red, Inc. a marketing and design firm in West Akron
Working at camp was “one of the most meaningful and exciting times of my life,” Putnam says.
Putnam worked at Camp Carl in Ravenna for three summers in the ‘90s as a counselor, a lifeguard and a speed boat driver. “Enjoying God’s creation and helping others” helped him to mature and grow, Putnam says, citing the great responsibility and mental alertness staff members need to keep campers safe. “It gives you an opportunity to think beyond yourself, to be a role model, and to impact others by your leadership,” he adds.
Tamar Sternfeld, director of Youth and Camping Services for Shaw Jewish Community Center of Akron
Sternfeld worked at camps in Michigan and Washington as a counselor and unit head while in college and graduate school.
“I learned how to think on my feet, how to work with what you’ve been given-even some child rearing tricks that I still use today with my own children,” she says.
“Working as a camp counselor gives people the opportunity to truly inspire children, which is one of the greatest rewards possible,” Sternfeld says, adding that today her camp seeks not only “to inspire the campers, but the staff as well.”
Two more former counselors whose lives were enriched by stints at summer camp:
Michael Eisner, former CEO of the Walt Disney Company
“Much of the success I’ve achieved can be traced to the direct and metaphorical lessons I learned in building those campfires. I can hardly think of an aspect of my life that wasn’t positively affected by my camping experience.”
Francis Ford Coppola, film director
“If I have to be remembered for something, I want it remembered that I really liked children and was a good camp counselor.”