10 Reasons Why Teens Should Work at Camp


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Your teen has been to summer camp for a few years, and now he's old enough to apply to join the camp staff as a counselor in training (CIT). As a CIT, young teens gain beneficial experience, knowledge and practice that lasts way beyond summer break. Counselors on staff receive important training, get real-life opportunities to manage conflict and learn important life skills while having fun. Here are 10 practical reasons why a teen should think about joining a camp staff for the summer.

1 New counselors benefit from training.

A portion of the training may be off-site, such as reading manuals and completing online courses, but other new skills will be learned at camp. "Topics such as recognizing and dealing with potential bullying, inappropriate behaviors, respect for fellow staff and campers, and how to encourage children to participate at activities should be included in camp staff training," says Howard Batterman, owner of Sesame/Rockwood Camps and Diamond Ridge Camps.

2 Camp staff learn CPR and first aid.

This training includes learning to recognize and care for first aid situations such as burns and cuts, neck and back injuries, and heat and cold emergencies.

3 Camp staff learn people skills and ways to work together.

Camps typically have weekly staff sessions when counselors share their assessments on how their cabin members are working together and participate in staff team building. Your teen can learn important people skills that will help her in the future.

4 Feedback helps teen counselors mature and grow.

"That is why it is so important for the directors and administrators of a camp to monitor the progress of each and every staff member with constructive and written progress reports throughout the summer session," Batterman says.

5 Camp counselors are role models.

"Working hard to set a positive example for youth is a challenging growth experience. When was the last time an 18-year-old went nine weeks without swearing for example?" says psychologist Christopher A. Thurber, author of Summer Camp Handbook.

6 Counselors practice and teach conflict-management strategies.

Staff members learn to recognize conflict and help campers see there are always two sides to a story. Your teen will learn the same conflict resolution skills they are teaching campers.

7 Counselors help campers be good sports.

They need to rally the troops in a competition but also remember to model good sportsmanship, which isn't always easy to do.

8 Being a staff member is a 24/7 job.

And since electronics are discouraged during camp, it's a positive environment in which to interact with other staff and campers.

"Each activity, including meals, is a terrific opportunity for the counselor to be creative in helping children become confident at an activity and in ways to get along with other campers and staff," Batterman says.

9 Teen counselors may get a chance to laugh at themselves.

Kids can be brutally honest and will point out the counselors' shortcomings. "So being a camp counselor is, therefore, humbling and tremendously demanding," Thurber says.

10 Camp counselors speak in front of groups.

They'll learn to be silly and more outgoing at the same time. Your once shy, awkward teen may come home a bit chattier and more boisterous.

"Camp staff directly influence youth development in ways that are tangible, rewarding, entertaining and, of course, fun," Thurber says. Counselors help provide an environment to explore and build self-esteem — in their campers and themselves.

Jan Udlock is a freelance writer and mom of five.

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