Tuesday, April 9 marked the first-ever #WorkAtCamp event co-hosted by ACA and Chaco Footwear.

This virtual gathering was open to all and offered an engaging exploration of working at camp. Thought leaders (a panel of recent/current staff) shared their inspiring stories and articulated why they value their work at camp. Participants were introduced to the varied range of camp employment experiences available, the multitude of positions available, the ability to apply to camp locations in different areas of the country, and the advantages of choosing camp employment this summer. 

This event did not disappoint and had a very diverse group of emerging leaders that represented a wide cross-section of camp modes, geographic locations (at least a dozen states including hometowns, schools attended, current work opportunities, and camps), and career paths (more on this in a minute!). The stories and experiences shared validate and amplify the MANY reasons why all young adults should and CAN have the opportunity to #WorkAtCamp!

Our emcee, Ronan, kicked us off and was the thread to connecting all of the amazing panelists to the big picture of working at camp. While Ronan is heading into his senior year at Middlebury College (VT) where he is studying Economics and French, he joined us from Italy (it was midnight where he was Zooming in!). Ronan has been studying this semester in Paris, France, and took time away from a school break to be with us. Ronan started his camp experience at Winaukee (NH) in 2009. After 10 summers as a camper, he returned as a staff member in 2021 where he spent three summers. He is passionate about leadership and personal development and discovered that he enjoyed working with staff and campers to build community and achieve personal goals.

Can You Work at Camp and Have an Internship Concurrently?!

Bruce, a senior mechanical engineering student at Auburn University (AL), says yes! He started attending Pine Ridge Day Camp in 2014 and participated in their 2 year CIT program. Bruce began working at camp in 2019 and has been a counselor every summer since. For the summer of 2024, he will have the opportunity to work at camp AND be an intern at Northrop Grumman, a company that solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace. One of the things that surprised Bruce about the benefits of working at camp were the doors that opened through meeting camp parents and families and the connections they have to a wide variety of job opportunities.

Is Camp a Stepping Stone to Working in Youth Development?

According to Sam, who is currently pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education, that is a big yes! Sam lives in Lincoln (NE) and started attending camp when she was seven years old and tallied 12 years as a camper! She went to a local sleep away camp run by the YMCA until the age of 13 and then discovered CampSAY, a camp created for young people who stutter. CampSAY (NY) changed Sam's life profoundly as a young person, and she is honored to be able to give back as a staff member to this underrepresented group. Even one summer as a camper can be life changing for the youth and teens who have this amazing opportunity to experience self-esteem, socialization, and free expression with the support of incredible staff like Sam. Sam's year round job is working as a preschool teacher, so she continues to impact young people even when not at camp! 

Can Working at Camp Create a Pathway to Jobs Outside of Working with Youth?

If Jenessa and Caitlin are any indication, then I think we can safely say the answer is yes! Both spent summers at Camp Robindel (NH) and can connect the dots from camp directly to their current career/job opportunities.

Jenessa studied Public and Nonprofit Community Recreation at Indiana University. After graduation, she took a non-conventional track as she was not quite ready for a traditional 9–5 job. Little did she know that she would soon find herself on a path to adventure! Jenessa spent a second summer at camp (her first while in college) where she had the chance to lead and guide camping trips throughout the summer. From here she was a canoe guide across the Midwest/East coast and last winter, a dog musher in the Boundary Waters. Jenessa vouches that all 21 sled dogs were the best coworkers in the world! She currently lives and works in St. Paul, MN, as a Parks Ambassador. At every turn, Jenessa is deeply passionate about increasing representation in the outdoors.

Caitlin's love for musical theater led her to study performance at Minnesota State University, where a college professor suggested she connect with a friend who was looking to fill an open theater counselor role at her summer camp. That introduction led to several summers of teaching theater at Camp Robindel, and ultimately helped Caitlin gain a sense of how she could weave her love for artistic work into more traditional organizations. After college, Caitlin pursued a law degree with the desire to one day advocate for creative professionals. Today she is part of the Legal and Business Affairs team at her current job, where she helps drive content creation and works tirelessly to help democratize access to online education. 

Can Working at Camp Lead to a Full-Time Job as a Camp Professional?

Again, the answer is yes! Rachel is now the assistant director of programming with BB Camp located in Portland and Lincoln City (OR) and Andy is the assistant program and staff director at Falling Creek Camp (NC). 

Rachel is a recent alumna of the University of Idaho where she studied Recreation, Sports, and Tourism Management. While in college, Rachel spent a lot of time with her sorority, Kappa Delta, the Career Services Department, the Office of Alumni Relations, The City of Moscow, and other opportunities. Rachel has been associated with camps for the past 10 years in both Arizona and Oregon, both as a camper and staff member. She also contributes to American Camp Association working groups (just ask her about @WorkAtCamp TikTok!).

Andy graduated from Wake Forest University (NC) with a degree in English and never imagined that he would be working at camp full-time as previously he spent multiple summers deep into research projects. He now manages large group events and themed programming, oversees several activities, and is heavily involved in the recruitment, management, and training of staff at Falling Creek. Informally, Andy is the Curator of Vibes, Resident DJ for the Dining Hall, and Asheville Area Travel Guide Extraordinaire.

As indicated by the stories above (and there are many more where these came from!), camp opens the door widely to both personal and professional growth and connections to boundless networking and career opportunities. Camp offers a chance to learn and develop transferable skills to just about any college major or career path. As Ronan so elegantly stated at one point during the event, “Regardless of what you care about and what you are interested in, there is a camp out there for you!”

If you would like to pursue a seasonal summer job or full-time career in camp, job opportunities are posted HERE.

Please enjoy and share the recording to the #WorkAtCamp event — we hope this is one of many opportunities to share the joys and benefits working at camp can offer!

This blog was written on behalf of Project Real Job whose purpose is to support camps in their efforts to recruit, hire, and retain staff.

Kim Aycock, MST, has several decades of experience equipping young people with skills robots are unable to do. While blending the talents of a master teacher with the knowledge of a seasoned camp expert, Kim ignites learning for varying levels of camp pros worldwide through her interactive and innovative presentations. Kim speaks at regional and national conferences, contributes regularly to Camping Magazine and ACA blogs, and serves as co-chair of ACA’s Staff Recruitment & Retention Committee and Staffing Summit. She can be reached at kimaycock.com.