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The first time parents send their kids off to summer camp is a moment of both fear and excitement. When a child takes the next step in their development, whether it’s learning to use a toilet or walking across a stage to pick up a diploma, it’s a proud moment for parents. You might also have a lot of questions about what comes next. We know that parents who are sending their child off to camp for the first time (or to a different camp) are going to have a few questions. A big one has to do with who will be watching their kids while they are gone. This is a broad question, but we’ll try to break down who camp counselors are and what to expect from them.
The Short Answer
The short answer to many of the broad questions that parents ask is one that can also be frustrating: It depends. There are thousands of summer camps out there (Don’t just take our word for it.) Is your child going to a private summer camp, a church camp, or one that focuses on building a particular set of skills. However you answer this question may determine the kind of people working as camp counselors as well as the number of counselors to campers. At many church camps, the counselors are made up of parents and church staff. The appealing factor here is that your child is being looked after by someone who likely has a child of his/her own and the maturity to keep things under control. For many non-religiously affiliated or private Christian camps, however, the camp counselors are made up of college students and other young adults. This may make you hesitant at first, but rest assured that a lot goes into the hiring process.
College Students as Camp Counselors
Who hasn’t seen “Friday the 13th” or some 80’s comedy where college-age camp counselors are depicted as immature and aloof? There’s a bit of a stereotype when it comes to college students working as counselors at summer camp. While there are bad apples here and there, this stereotype is vastly overplayed and mistaken. The good news is that today’s camps have a whole list of qualifications to meet if college students want to work at their establishments. You can sleep soundly knowing that summer camps are making sure they have the right kind of counselors long before your child arrives.
This is actually a great setup for kids as college students provide them with role models who are not that far removed from themselves. It’s easier for a child to follow a command if they look up to the person who is giving it, so building that bond is important. College students have the endurance and athleticism required for a summer full of fun activities as well as dealing with large groups of children 24/7. It also doesn’t hurt that university schedules perfectly line up for 18 to 22-year-olds to have all the free time necessary to work at a summer camp for 2-3 months.
Special Instructors and Staff
When we think about kids going away to camp, it’s easy to think of your child’s counselor as his or her only means of adult supervision, but many camps also employ a host of special instructors and full-time staff. Many camps have an on-site office where several adults work to keep the daily operations going and to help parents communicate with their children. There are other tasks, typically associated with the upkeep of these large plots of land, that require further year-round staff. They might be landscapers, horse wranglers, cooks, or handymen, but they are just another line of adult supervision to keep your child safe and happy.
What Kind of Contact Do Camp Counselors Have with Campers?
Let’s get back to camp counselors, be they college-age or not. This is the most important job at a summer camp because these are the people who are directly responsible for your child. Every camp is different, but the basic tasks of a camp counselor are to make sure that campers are getting to bed at a decent hour, showing up at meals and activities on time, and, most importantly, enjoying every minute of camp life. Parents know just how physically draining it can be to watch a child all day, but when you add ten more kids and realize that none of them actually belong to these counselors, you learn to appreciate the job.
Being a camp counselor is more than just holding kids’ hands while they walk to breakfast, though. For many camps, the role of counselor is one where a young person is being discipled or trained in everything from activities like ropes courses to spiritual matters and social maturity. Camp is about having a safe, fun time, but it’s also an opportunity for a child to step out and grow. That’s why it’s important for a camp counselor to be of unquestionable character.
Precautions and Safety Measures
Fortunately, these camps know just how important it is to find camp counselors who are honest, trustworthy, and willing to put a stranger’s kids’ needs over their own. Take private Christian camps like Kanakuk and Pine Cove for example. These places send recruitment teams around the country to round up the best and the brightest at each college campus. This often includes one-on-one interviews with the applicants where the camp representative will look into a prospective counselor’s personality, religious ties, and work ethic. Then after this interview the camp representative will call multiple references and check social media just to make sure the candidate is a good fit for the summer camp program.
This is only part of the research and safety measures put into place as many camps also have guidelines for behaviour at camp. Designed for the safety of both counselors and campers, these measures help to limit the possibility of issues pertaining to abuse and neglect as well as to keep things running as smoothly as possible.
Communication With Your Camp is Key
As we’ve said before, every camp is different. At many summer camps, counselors are responsible for 10-12 kids all week where other camps have a ratio closer to 1:6. If you have any concerns, we suggest calling the camp your child will be attending or looking at the website for more information on how they hire counselors and other workers. You might be surprised to find out just how upfront many of these places are.
At Camp Electric, our camp counselors (also known as Chaperones) are over the age of 23 and often a family member of one of the campers. Our camp is all about teaching kids how to become better musicians and to use the gifts that God has given them. The classes at camp are taught by many of today’s biggest Christian artists, something we pride ourselves on being able to provide. Find out more about Camp Electric and how your child can attend by clicking on the link below.