The hours are long, the pay is low, and at the end of the week, you get to do everything all over again the following week. So why do people ever become a camp counselor? Summer camp counselors are able to work in the outdoors, develop stronger leadership skills, improve their scouting skills and if their lucky they just might make an impression on a scout that will last for the rest of their lives.
Summer camp is one of the biggest parts of scouting. Scouts who will not go camping at anytime the rest of the year will go summer camp. It is up to the camp counselor to make each scout's experience the best it can be. Pools, canoes and dining halls only make up a small part of the overall experience a scout will have. A single camp counselor has the influence to determine if a scout has a great time at summer camp.
A good camp counselor is able to gain respect and admiration from scouts and scout leaders without continually being required to prove himself. He understands scouts look up to him and consider him a role model. He is able to make each scout think he is there for each individual scout and not just for a group scouts. He is able to give the scouts everything they want and still be able to leave them wanting more. He understands that he not only influences scouts but the other counselors as well. He understands he can set the tone for the summer camp. No matter how tired or sore he is, he is still enthusiastic and puts everything he has towards the task he must accomplish. He is able to find the smallest accomplishment and make a scout proud of it. If a camp counselor has done his job, scouts will be able to sit at the closing campfire reflecting on all the adventures they had at summer camp and be excited to come back next year.
A great camp counselor understands earning merit badges is only a small part of summer camp. Many counselors and scouts focus solely earning on Merit Badges and they forget what the purpose of summer camp really is. Every so often a counselor should remind himself that having a great venture and doing things a person cannot normally do the rest of the year outside of summer camp is most important. Summer camp is about rowing, swimming, shooting shotgun, black powder shooting, archery, and dozens of other activities only a summer camp can offer. A good counselor understands that while the scouts are on their journey of new experiences the counselor should not forget he too is on a journey of new experiences and adventures. Scouts emulate their counselors so if a scout sees counselors having fun and enjoying themselves then the scouts will have fun too.
It is unfortunate many leaders and camp staff members have forgotten what the purpose of merit badges are. Most merit badges are about allowing scouts to learn new skills and form new interests. Merit badges are not about being experts about a specific topic. An admirable camp counselor is able to introduce new skills and ideas to scouts and allow them to have fun without having to break each requirement into a specific task. An experienced summer camp counselor is able to combine merit badge requirements into an experience he able to share with the scouts.
"Reach, throw, row, go, with support is the last resort" is something many scouts will never forget. Almost every merit badge requires a scout to have minimal knowledge about the merit badge. Summer Camp is not summer school. No scout likes to be forced to sit down to grilled about a merit badge. To test a scout's knowledge an experienced counselor is able to test a scout's knowledge without even realize they are being quizzed. When scouts repeat answers as much as possible, they are more likely to remember the answers. An observant counselor is able to see when a scout has completed a requirement without having to tell the scout which requirement to complete.
A summer camp counselor is one of the only summer jobs where a single individual can directly influence the experience future leaders and businessmen will have. Years after they are no longer a scout they will remember the good times and the bad times they had at summer camp.
Many counselors are a camp counselor because it is who they are. They view being a camp counselor not as a job but as an experience. For some it is a vacation they actually are paid to go on. Being a camp counselor is not like any other summer job. Being a camp counselor is not like any other experience a scout can have.
There are two paths in life. One is very straight and well traveled; the other is twisted and less traveled. The first allows you to see the same things as many others and you get to the end very quickly. The second one takes longer to reach the end and has new experiences are at every turn. Which path are you on?
By a former Summer Camp Counselor