the Heartbeat of Camp Life
Youth volunteers are truly the heart beat of summer camps. In reflection of some forty to fifty years in camp life, honoring them in the way they deserve, would be almost impossible. They come to us with eagerness to help, willingness to learn, and abilities to follow directions, while also being creative with their own talents and skills.
The example they set before campers is a profound one. Through the years, we often heard campers say to us as well as to their parents, “I can’t wait until I can be a Jr. counselor!” We discovered that they share a childlike happiness with their campers. They, so close to childhood themselves, have a real grasp of the feelings of children. Campers seem to gravitate to them, to find comfort in their understanding faces, and to adapt more easily to camp life when Junior counselors are a part of their group.
Senior Staff also depend upon the talents and leadership of their volunteers. At Camp Whip-Poor-Will the groups of 7 to 10 campers always had one Sr. staff member and one Junior staff member volunteer. Many of the camp Jr. staff remained for five to seven years until they completed high school.
Volunteering one week or more was offered each summer. Because the volunteers were often the same, year after year, they added even more leadership for Sr. Staff counselors. As college students often had opportunities of summer school, travel, and internships in their chosen fields, they were not always as available for the same summer jobs. Thus the Volunteer brought valuable knowledge and assistance to their groups as they were so very familiar with the camp setting.
Training is important for the Jr. staff member as well as for Sr. Staff. While the best training is always in person training, a manual is a good guide for all counselors. In addition to person to person meetings with Jr. staff, a provided manual gave clarity and confidence to the volunteer. At the end of their volunteer time, they were recognized at All Camp by a presentation of a certificate of gratitude.