“What do you hope to get out of your summer job?” This question has become quite familiar the last few months. With the fall season underway, I’ve taken to college cafeterias, job fairs, and campus ministries to boot. When students want to know more about a summer at camp, I often throw the question right back at them: “Well, what do you want out of your summer?” The answers are what you would expect for the most part: something fun, working with kids, being outside, getting paid, and of course something to build the resume.
But what I don’t often hear is, “I want a summer job that has an immediate and transformative effect on my life the following fall” or “I want a job that I am still thinking about, learning from, and applying to my day-to-day life months or even years afterward.” And here’s the thing – I can’t really blame them. The seasonal element of a summer job is right there in the name: summer job. It’s not summer job that makes me more confident and want to be a better person and mentally and emotionally trickles into the following year. Or, if they are being future-minded about their summer job choice, it is in hopes of having another transferable skill bullet-pointed on their resume and getting a leg up in the full-time job market. They’re not thinking about a heart-change or something that may alter the trajectory of their life from the inside out.
Now, can camp really do that? The short answer is yes. But I was reminded how true this is on a visit with a counselor earlier this fall. Over lunch, she was catching me up on how much better junior year has been than any year prior. After a little probing, she could really only cite one reason for the change: camp. “I would say that the phrase that comes to mind when I think about camp is ‘healing through fun.’ Camp is a place that’s designed for people to have a good time. When you’re a counselor, you have to learn to set aside your hang ups. You have to think about people besides yourself and work to create a fun environment for your girls. I think that after the tough year I had with COVID, camp was perfect. I thought I needed time to lay on the couch and chill, but it turns out that what I needed was time at camp. I felt this unbelievable burst of energy at the start of my junior year. I think I felt more equipped to deal with the challenges of school, and I just felt so lighthearted and happy.”
Camp is transformative work. It checks all the boxes, sure: fun, paid, kids, resume builder… But camp is hard. It’s a job that brings you to the end of yourself, but you know what? It’s also a job that can change things far beyond the summer – and change them for good.
Let’s keep camping –
Elizabeth Olvey, Assistant Director of Staffing