We often hear how beneficial the camp experience is for the camper. Though that is true, not as many parents or staff may be aware of the benefits and life skills that come from being a counselor. The summer camp counselor position is a highly selective job with a demanding schedule and high expectations of maturity and responsibility. We know that the summer will be hard work, but it will also be fun and rewarding. Counselors are responsible for a cabin full of boys, they lead and teach a variety of activities, and they constantly display admirable qualities by living by the Falling Creek Code. For three months, our staff are mentors, big brothers/sisters, role models, friends, and teachers. Is it fun? Yes. Is it demanding? Yes. However, we know that our staff have what it takes, and the skills they learn over the summer are just fuel for their personal and professional growth down the road.

Boys attentively listening to their counselor's instructions during a paddling trip.Boys attentively listening to their counselor's instructions during a paddling trip.

Being a camp counselor is more than just a “summer job” before your “real job.” Being on staff at camp is a real job with real opportunities and benefits. Working at camp is an important educational experience that teaches skills for the 21st century through leadership, communication, responsibility, and teamwork. Few other jobs or internships can give you the same opportunities for growth, or the same leadership experience. Being a tribal leader teaches peer leadership as counselors are expected to be leaders and role models among others their own age. The opportunity to be activity leader or trip leader offers further experience with planning, organization, communication, risk management, and proactive thinking to ensure that your activity is taught effectively or your trip goes smoothly. These leadership opportunities ensure a certain level of expertise in the activity itself, but also allow staff to excel in the areas of communication, teamwork, and “people skills” that are necessary in today’s world.

All smiles on a Linville Gorge climbing trip!All smiles on a Linville Gorge climbing trip!

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (p21.org) is a non-profit in D.C. made up of America’s largest and most successful companies. They put together a list of skills that businesses look for when hiring, and discovered that they aren’t the typical skills learned in school or at an office desk (see footnote 1). Instead, these are called the “3 C’s”:

1) Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
2) Creativity & Innovation
3) Communication & Collaboration

These life skills can’t be learned from a textbook or through standardized test prep in schools. However, this is why supplemental experiences, such as camp, have so much value. The camp experience provides staff with these necessary life skills, giving them that extra edge for the competitive job market, and for life in general. Working at camp provides a new depth of knowledge beyond the classroom, educating through face-to-face interaction in a community and hands-on experience in an activity.

Enjoying a day hike and learning about our surrounding environment at camp's own Falling Creek Falls.Enjoying a day hike and learning about our surrounding environment at camp's own Falling Creek Falls.

Life skills such as initiative, resilience, responsibility, integrity, accountability, adaptability, and teamwork are crucial for success in the modern world. The American Camping Association President, Tom Rosenberg, recently published an article elaborating on how these unique life skills are even more valuable in this new age (2). He explains,

“According to the World Economic Forum, the coming Fourth Industrial Revolution builds on the innovation of the Third Industrial Revolution to transform industry all over the globe, such as: artificial intelligence, the Internet of things, self-driving vehicles, nanotechnology, renewable energy, quantum computing, and biotechnology (Gray, 2016). With the evolution of these new fields, emerging markets will require a novel set of uniquely human skills for employment — the same skills we teach at camp.”

While away from the distractions of technology, counselors and campers are able to grow in an unplugged and communal environment, where all these skills are taught extensively through the camp experience.

Without technology, there's even more time for bonding around the campfire during an out-of-camp trip.Without technology, there's even more time for bonding around the campfire during an out-of-camp trip.

It may seem like all fun and games, but the lessons learned during a summer of work at camp are invaluable, especially as the new job market demands more human skills in an increasingly technological society. Where else can you get the hands-on experience of teaching, coaching, and caring for children, the excitement of leading trips, the communication skills from planning activities, or the peer leadership experience from working with fellow staff? Parents notice the difference in their sons and daughters as they return from working over the summer, and we are always happy when they reach out with comments about the positive impact from the camp experience. Bonnie Snyder Hamrick, mother of prior camper and current mountain bike counselor Jake Lambrecht, told us, “I would like to thank you for the very positive influence you have had on my son Jake. I saw him mature before my eyes last summer. Your camp has left a lasting impression on this young man and he is so proud to be coming back. Thank you for all you are doing for these young men.” Tim Efird, a parent and alumnus, also reached out to say that “Truly, the development and personal growth our son exhibits after his time at camp is noticeable. The fun, the experiences, and the friendships are the icing on the cake.”

Jake Lambrecht, center, as a young camper. He is returning this summer as an incredible mountain bike instructor!Jake Lambrecht, center, as a young camper. He is returning this summer as an incredible mountain bike instructor!

Aside from the many personal benefits gained from working at summer camp, one of the biggest “perks” of the job is the difference you make in a boy’s life. Few other jobs can offer the same impact or level of meaningfulness. During the summer you have the opportunity to be a mentor, a role model, and a big brother or sister. Campers often look up to their counselors and build strong relationships over the years at camp. The bonds created at camp are lifelong, and the positive that impact counselors have can’t be overstated. If you’ve been looking for something more than just another summer job, being a camp counselor at Falling Creek is an unforgettable way to not only create memories and make an impact this summer, but also to experience personal growth and set a professional foundation of 21st century skills.

If you’re interested in an experience that will grow you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, we encourage you to visit our website for more application information (https://www.fallingcreek.com/staff)

Author: Annie Pharr

Campers often look up to their counselors and build strong relationships over the years at camp.Campers often look up to their counselors and build strong relationships over the years at camp.
"twinning" during a game of frisbee golf!
One of our Directors, Sam, showing that camp is good clean fun!One of our Directors, Sam, showing that camp is good clean fun!

References & Resources

(1) Pritikin, A. (2015, January 13). Camp: The Ultimate 21st Century Skills Learning Environment. Retrieved from https://www.acacamps.org/news-publications/blogs/camp-connection/camp-ultimate-21st-century-skills-learning-environment

(2) Rosenberg, T. (2018, November). World-Class Career Development. Retrieved from https://www.acacamps.org/resource-library/camping-magazine/world-class-career-development?fbclid=IwAR2SP6SjW7U-7ajvQlTfDAFQTB1qyhUXrHRjLzZAq2VsEqsequvNWuDDx2M

Gray, A. (2016, January 19). The 10 skills you need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. World Economic Forum. Retrieved from weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-10-skills-you-need-to-thrive-in-the-fourth-industrial-revolution/
Johnson, L. F. (2016, May). Tackle Your Camp Counselor Job with an Internship Mindset. Retrieved from https://www.acacamps.org/resource-library/camping-magazine/tackle-your-camp-counselor-job-internship-mindset

Millard, K. (2016, November 9). The Unsung Benefits of Being a Camp Counselor. Retrieved from http://www.acanewengland.org/families-public/smore-about-camp-a-blog-for-camp-families/the-unsung-benefits-of-being-a-camp-counselor

Shreckhise, E. D., Camp America. (2016, March 15). Top 3 reasons to be a camp counselor. Retrieved from https://www.campamerica.co.uk/explore/blog/top-3-reasons-to-be-a-camp-counselor