Camp Jobs Change Lives

Summer Camp and Outdoor Education staff talk about how their jobs at camp have made them better people, better professionals, and better parents.

Be part of Katie's Interview Project

What did you learn about leadership from your camp supervisors?

What did camp leaders do to create a community of support and autonomy?

What leadership strengths did you learn at camp and how did you use them?

How has working at camp changed your life, personally or professionally?

Acceptance, not judgment

Interview with Molly Wilson, 3rd/4th grade teacher and leadership staff member at YMCA Camp Collins

To me, leadership means to follow the rules, to do the right thing, to act with integrity.  One of my leaders at camp was a huge mentor and inspiration for me.  They trusted the people around them and the team as a whole.  They trusted people who wanted to lead in totally different ways.  There was room for people to try things out, to make mistakes and feel okay about them, and to learn from their experiences.  They led by example and were always the first to do whatever was needed.  They did jobs no one wanted (like cleaning the bathroom) and never complained once. 

When it comes to my relationships with staff, I create open-door communication.  People know they are welcome to talk with me, to check in about what they’re doing well or need to improve.  They also are welcome to give me suggestions on what I can do better.  We work side-by-side.  It’s a partnership.  Where there’s no open door, there’s miscommunication and people question why lots of things aren’t happening.  The rumor mill starts and that culture trickles down to the campers. 

Great leaders are also organized.  They are prepared in advance for any and all situations.  When things are disorganized, people have to work harder to make things happen.  I work really hard to be very organized and on top of things.  I’m behind the scenes doing everything others don’t want to do.  I make sure none of the pieces drop.  I anticipate what could go wrong and set things up for success.  I identify campers and staff who might struggle and give them better tools.  Often 18 and 19 year olds get frustrated or overwhelmed.  They think current challenges can never change.  My job is to help them see more possibilities.

I came into camp as the shyest person you could ever meet.   I wouldn’t get onstage at a campfire.  Working at camp was about my own growth- getting comfortable with people, developing confidence, becoming a leader.  It helped me immensely as a teacher and coach.  Every teacher would benefit from working at camp.  An increasing number of our students come in with lots of trauma and anxiety.  They’re not ready to learn.  Camp helps you understand kids better.  It gives you a chance to see them in a different atmosphere.  Your role is to talk with them, to build relationships, to help them cope.  Being in the classroom doesn’t always allow for that relationship building, but we can create the time.  Helping my class feel like a community makes a huge difference.  For the first month of school, we spend a lot of time doing team building activities like at camp. We work on acceptance and not judgment.  We talk about the importance of each person’s unique qualities.  As a result, there’s not a lot of conflict.  When it does happen, we can talk through it, and the students handle it much more maturely than you’d expect from their age group.  Our job as a community is to bring out the best in everyone and to notice what each person adds to the team.