Chloe Leo, Headfirst Summer Camp Counselor
After deciding that I was going to spend my summer working, it was not hard to find a job as a camp counselor. Being 16, this was my first job aside from babysitting and the occasional catering gig. Since I wasn’t too keen on the idea of spending my days in a lifeguard chair or manning the counter of one of Tenley’s many fine food establishments, being a camp counselor seemed like the obvious choice. After a minimum amount of internet research, I was able to find Headfirst Summer Camps, and was employed after sending in an application with my résumé attached, and a brief over-the-phone interview.
I will start by saying this place was no average day camp. Having a reputation for being DC’s number one summer camp, this place was pretty legit, which meant I was required to attend numerous days of training in-person and online, watching hours of pre-recorded webinars before I was able to start. As part of upholding their impressive reputation, Head First had an intense code of conduct which I was reminded of daily. We were also required to wear uniforms consisting of a t-shirt that was prone to sweat stains, tucked into uncomfortable gender-neutral basketball shorts. However, aside from the extensive list of sunscreen, allergy protocols, and the awful uniforms, I found myself really enjoying the work. My co-workers were for the most part nice and easy to work with, and the kids were super cute. After working with many different age groups, I found my calling with the seven to eight-year-olds.
The most unfortunate part was receiving my paycheck, because for all of the running around and yelling my job required, I was only payed $7.25 an hour, much of which went to taxes. Luckily the job came with a few perks, like free coffee, donuts every Friday morning, and a storage closet filled with as many pretzels, teddy grahams, goldfish, and ‘icees’ as I could possibly want. Overall I would give the job four out of five stars, because it was pretty good for a starter job and came with its perks, but the pay was more than disappointing.
Brian Keyes, Sleep-away Camp Counselor
For almost 10 weeks, from four days after school ended to two days before it began, I spent my summer in Western Maine working at Bryant Pond 4-H Camp as a field teacher. While my actual job most closely resembled that of a summer camp counselor, my time was probably spent differently than those of my peers who may have worked at Sidwell Friends or Calleva this past summer. The camp was a sleep away camp, which meant that I not only played the role of counselor but also that of parent, mentor, medic, and yes, teacher.
I used to go to the camp when I was younger and had gone through some of the more learning intensive programs which taught me everything I needed to know to work there, from woodsmen skills to communication. I helped kids who had never seen a gun before in their lives shoot their first skeet, take kids only a few years younger than myself white-water canoeing in New Hampshire, taught groups of all ages how to properly paddle, read a map and compass, make a shelter out of fallen debris or tarps and rope, and how to administer basic first aid in the outdoors.
I didn’t realize before going into the job that I would be working around 75 hours a week that included having to soothe homesick kids, administer prescription drugs on off-property trips, and make sure that the kids were actually eating something, lest they collapse from being hypoglycemic in the middle of a hike. Spending a straight week with only 8-12 year old boys will help you learn patience very quickly, because you don’t get to send them home at 3:15 and actually have to make them sit still every once in awhile in an attempt to actually try and teach them something.
Despite the one a.m. wake-ups involving wet sleeping bags, and the occasional kid who would ask for a band-aid only for me to find they had an inch-deep gash in their leg, I couldn’t have asked for a more fulfilling way to spend my time than by giving back to a community that has taught me so much over my lifetime. Every week I would have at least one kid who was truly interested in the program and took everything seriously and left with a sense of satisfaction, and that, to me, is what it’s all about.