Tell me about Camp America and/or being a Camp Counsellor/Camper

My baby sis is finishing High School this year and is planning to go and do the Camp America thing.

She’s very bright, loves kids and worked for 3 weeks last year as a classroom assisstant at a school for kids with physical and learning disabilities. I’m basically not too worried about how she’ll handle herself or the kids, but apart from the C.A. literature, she knows very little about what to expect.

She has indicated on the form that she doesn’t mind working with kids with special needs, and would be OK with a camp that had a religious ethos, so unless she ends up in a religious fundie camp for kids with ADHD and wants to come home on the next plane, she should be fine.

After working she’s planning to spend a couple of weeks travelling, probably to New York and Boston, either alone or with a friend (if she can meet another C.A. person who wants to travel). *

So, what should she know?
Anything from former campers, counsellors, parents of campers etc. would be appreciated.
*This thread is not the place to discuss the wisdom of an 18 y/o girl travelling around the USA by herself. She wants to do it, our family supports her, so please don’t hijack the thread about that.

My friend spent last summer in America doing the “Camp America” thing. She felt that one of the male counsellors was a little too cosy with the female campers. When she voiced this opinion, she found herself on the next flight home.

I’m sure that most counsellors have good experiences though.

I’ve never heard of Camp America.
But I was a counsellor for two summers for CYO Girls Girls Camp.

It was the best thing that happened to me. Somehow the camp directors saw the Budding Tyrant inside of me and made me a leader of the oldest girls on camp. The second summer I was given a review at the end of the season and advised I would have to be reinterviewed if I wanted to return. I was a bit of a rebel by that time.

The days were long, starting shortly after 7am and Lights out was not until 10p.

The pay was for shit. $500 for the summer. The.Summer. Ummmmm, what?

No radio, tv or newspaper. Apparently there was a hijacking that was big news that summer (1985) and I still have no idea what it was all about. We got our news like prison inmates from the incoming group of campers. I learned alot about how the general news media really does not affect me at all and I’ve never looked back in that department. ( except for being a farker and the internet.)

I think of it fondly and wish I had a camera then.

When I was a kid I went to a summer camp for many years that had a large number of British counselors from Camp America. They were all great people and seemed to really enjoy their stay, although the pay was crap.

I have not heard of Camp America either, but I was a counsellor at a local Boy Scout camp for 6 summers. Since this was a Boy Scout program, most of what I had to do was centered around teaching skills for Merit Badges. I taught Camping, Cooking, Hiking, Pioneering, Orienteering, and Backpacking Merit Badges. We also had councelors for our Nature area, Aquatics, Campcraft, and Rifle and Archery ranges. I was also in charge of six camping areas where different troops would stay. It was my responsibility to make sure they had all of the equipment each troop needed for the week as well as provide information about what was happening in camp that week. We also were required to provide social activities and games to our campers. Every week we had a new set of troops that stayed with us. This would go for seven weeks each summer.

I would expect that this camp has similar types of programs that kids can do. They will learn to swim (or learn to swim better), have opportunities to play different types of sports, as well as lots of social opportunities to get to know each other better. Depending on how the leadership and councelor positions are organized, your sister may be required to fill a lot of hats. For example, say your sister has a group of 12 kids you are directly responsible for. In addition to making sure they get to scheduled activities on time, she might also have to help feed them, make sure they stay clean, put on social activities for them, and entertain them, in addition to any activities she herself is responsible for teaching.

Skills that are helpful for a camp counsellor are similar to that of a teacher. She will need organizational and group management skills, but these are easily learned as the job progresses. The interesting thing about summer camps is that they are a great way to learn and improve your teaching and management skills.

Other skills that she probably will learn:

  • Put on and perform in a skit
  • Lead the group in songs
  • Run activities and games
  • Learn the strengths and weaknesses of her fellow counsellors.

Being a camp counsellor is a great experience. It helped me become more social and made me some lifelong friends. I hope this helps.

Hi, I used to attend (and later worked at) a summer camp that had a bunch of British staff that came through BUNAC. All told I returned there 9 consecutive years! While my camp was a YMCA camp, it was not religious in nature (our “chapel” was skits and such on themes like “respecting others” “protecting the environment” etc.). By the way a “religious belief” could include Jewish summercamps as well as Christian ones.

My camp (Camp Sloane, YMCA, Lakeville, Connecticut) organized itself into activities and offered “classes” which kids would sign up for each week. Staff therefor did not constantly supervise the same children – during activity times the children went to the different locations (arts & craft building, althetic field, etc.) on their own, staff taught hour-long classes. So staff mostly had a single activity specialty area. At meals and in the evenings/nights/mornings each counsellor had a “tent” of 7 children. This is pretty different from the organization Dragwyr describes. The way things run can vary an awful lot from camp to camp.

A good camp should have 4-10 days dedicated (and paid) Staff training. DO NOT work at any camp that does not offer even a cursory training period before the children arrive. That is a sign of bad management and a general “throw you into the deep end” mentality. If there is any way for her to find out how much staff returns for a second year, it is a good sign that things are fun and well run if quite a few do

Do NOT work at a camp where 1 counsellor is expected to supervise more than 10-12 children on his/her own. IMHO, no more than 8 is ideal.

I always enjoyed the British counsellors – just a couple years ago I stayed in London with some British counsellors I met in the summer of 96 (I introduced them, they later married). We used to have a lot of fun with it on 4th of July – aligning the camp into British and American teams for water balloon fights and such. We also had an “International day” when our International counsellors (most British, some European and Asian) could share food and activities from their home. There’s nothing funnier than watching American 10 year olds try to play cricket. “Throw it at the stick! No, at the stick!!”

A special visa allows travel throughout the US that summer after work has concluded – this is the ONLY “working holidaymaker” visa in the US so take advantage of it. Budget some time/money for travel within the US, and don’t forget it is a BIIIG country.