The Bond Between Staff and Camper

Jul 3, 2020

The most important job I have as director of Camp W is hiring staff. After all, it’s the counselors, specialists, administrative workers, and others who will ensure all of the children’s safety and guarantee that each camper comes home pleasantly exhausted and eager to return the next day. That’s why I put every potential employee through a rigorous interview process – not just to learn about their individual history, but also to get a sense of the type of person they are, to see what motivates them, and gauge their general demeanor. I truly don’t want anyone working for me who isn’t happy to be there and enjoys the job, because I know that the relationships kids form with their counselors and others can be an enormous determining factor in the type of summer they have.

When I was a camper, I thought my counselors were the absolute coolest people in the world. They were rock stars to me, the very personification of style and confidence, wearing cool like a zebra wears stripes. I looked up to them, and they were worth looking up to – making me feel welcome and at home every day: taking the time to talk with me and teach me things; and demonstrating kindness and other virtues through sheer example.

Many of you know from experience the profound effect a counselor can have on a child. We tend to remember those we admire, and one funny, bodacious, creative, and unique counselor is worth more than all of the sports and games and special events we do throughout the summer. A great counselor can make a dull moment interesting and turn a fun time into an incredible one. The best of them can also act as someone to confide in – to share your fears or concerns with, because you know he or she won’t judge you, but will listen with care and compassion. They are friends, mentors, and role models.

I look to hire “camp people,” as we say, since they are the ones who regularly have the kids and camp on their minds. They’re the people who are constantly trying to find a way to make kids laugh, help them make friends, and make each day brighter and better. I know I’ve hired the right person when I see a counselor react to a kid telling him that he’s going to see a Pokémon movie in the same way he would if someone had just handed him a thousand dollars. When I see a specialist giving high-fives and telling a camper how awesome they just did. Or when I spot a counselor giving a camper a bracelet she just made for her. These are the people that realize that the right word or action from them can leave a child beaming with pride.

I’ve witnessed kids do amazing things just because a counselor or specialist told them they could. I’ve seen them run farther, jump higher, and stand taller than they ever thought possible based solely on the encouragement of someone who believed in them. And when I ask campers to tell me how their day is going, more than half the time they don’t start talking about soccer or go karts or computer coding, but about something “awesome,” “hilarious,” or “crazy” that their
counselor did.

Though they’re not in a classroom, these people are teachers, instructing children not just in sports, music, Arts & Crafts, and the like, but in how to be honest, upstanding, and considerate people. It’s an invaluable lesson.

By Evan Wofsy