So you want to work at a summer camp?
Working at a summer camp was the most rewarding experience of my life. I was able to help boys aged 14 to 18 become young men who could take life into their own hands. I was fortunate enough to help teach them things like responsibility, courage, empathy, and maturity among other traits. But how does this stack up on the counselor side of things?
If you are thinking about working for a summer camp, I highly recommend it! You will be able to experience many once in a lifetime opportunity while helping our future.
I will warn you, however, that the road to becoming a camp counselor is not for the weak. It is a long and hard road that will pay off when accomplished.
After we were properly trained to be horseback riding counselors, the other counselors began to show up. I was trained with the other wranglers for 5 days before all the other staff showed up. Once all staff reported to the camp, we were able to begin a full staff training. This was a week of dealing with every issue that could possibly arise with campers and other staff. We talked about what to do with wildlife and how to keep the campers safe, what we should do in an emergency, how to drive campers around in 15 passenger vans, and so many more things.
After staff training was completed, the campers started to arrive, and things got very hectic. The upper boy’s unit staff was divided into 3 staff members per cabin. We would be sleeping in bunks with 20 other campers in the cabin with us. This was a serious full-time job. Every minute you were in the cabin and on the property, you were liable for the campers and their safety. It was a very stressful part of the job but was also a great way to meet the campers and bond with them.
My job as a horseback riding counselor was to teach these young men how to ride a horse and how to be a good role model. Above that, it was to teach them maturity, responsibility, and how to deal with things when they got tough. The program at the camp required us to have day trips to different destinations and then head back to camp, have ring rides where we would teach proper horse etiquette and western riding, and overnight trips where we would ride the horses to a destination and then camp overnight.
Every week, we had 36 hours off to ourselves. This time off would usually be spent catching up on sleep, doing laundry, and eating something other than camp food. These 36 hours would be divided into two different shifts with one being our night off and the other being our day off. On our nights off, we could be seen in the local town bar singing karaoke and playing pool.
As a counselor, you spend almost every second with the kids making sure they are ok. After the wranglers would teach a horseback riding lesson, we would have to help put the horses back into the corral, unsaddle them, and feed them all before we had to go back to the unit to take a shower, write reports every week to campers’ families, and then relax before dinner.
Every day was hard and not without drama. There was something to be said or done that should have been done in the eyes of another. At the end of the day, everyone was healthy, happy, and rewarded by what happened that day. I spent much time thinking I want to give up because it was so hard to be responsible for all the kids and myself and help the other staff members. I then realized that this was not that hard. Everyone was easy to talk to and bonding was made easy because of the lack of technology. Although the physical effort was very high, day in and day out, none of the campers had their phones or technology. I have never felt so at ease with connecting with people.
After being in Colorado for more than two months, my time was done, and I had to go back to school. If it would be possible, I would do this all year long. There is something about being in the mountains helping kids become something more than what they expect of themselves. Life is so short and experiences like this only come along so often. I want to challenge you to complete that résumé, so you can take that job at the summer camp. It does not have to be as long as two months or be in the mountains to make it just as rewarding. You have the opportunity to mold the minds of the future in such a positive way while connecting with nature in a way that seems so distant today.
Take the pay cut, go into nature, and take that leap of faith. Life is about experiencing great things and having a rewarding outcome while helping others. Nothing helps you do that quite like working at summer camp.