SCLA . . . Growth, Challenge, and Opportunity

November 17, 2011

Recently, Matt MacPherson, a Recreation and Sports Management major at Indiana State University, had the opportunity to attend SCLA Midwest. Read about Matt's experiences at SCLA, what he learned about the importance of networking and professional development, his reaction to SCLA, and why he would recommend the experience to others. If you live in the West or Southeast, be on the lookout for more information about YOUR chance to attend SCLA.

Camping is a beautiful part of this life and it is going to take motivated and interactive people to take camping into a bright and effective future.

A Career in Camp

Leaves, trees, and changing weather. Those are just some of the attributes that people most likely think about when illustrating the outdoors. An outdoor setting provides a beautiful scenic landscape at certain times (depending on where you may be) and also brings about many external senses all together for a complete satisfaction of the mind. Who would ever imagine that this beautiful landscape that we are all imagining is the same type of environment that people can have a career in? Let’s go even further — how about a career in outdoor camping?

This is what a group of college students, camp professionals, and I experienced this past weekend at Camp Henry Horner, located in Ingleside, Illinois. Gordie Kaplan, the field office executive of ACA, Illinois, was the leader of the Student Camp Leadership Academy (more commonly known as SCLA). As I was personally preparing for the weekend, I did not know exactly what to expect. I was thinking I’d share a weekend with a lot of people from different states and that we were going to be in large groups having speed networking opportunities with many camp professionals that were available.

My Experience

Well, I was close with my thoughts. There were people from different states that came together and there were camp professionals. There was just one huge difference from my first initial reactions: this was not a large group. Nine potential camp professionals (including myself) attended for this extensive weekend, and there were also a various amount of current camp directors that ranged in different ages and experience. Although I was caught off guard by the small group of people, my first encounter with another participant — Justin, who attends the University of Northern Iowa — helped me feel at home. After my first general conversation with him, I realized that although this was not going to be a large group, this was going to be a rich, informative weekend.

Gordie Kaplan, who had recently arrived back from China from the International Camping Fellowship Conference, was leading this opportunity to grow, connect, and learn more about the camping community. Thanks to the organized leadership of Gordie, we had a great opportunity to learn more about things like the realities of the camp market, networking, sources that deal with camp related material, and how to organize an effective resume and professional portfolio. These workshops, along with many other growing opportunities provided for a safe, fun, and learning weekend that was full of growth and potential.

Realities and Some Good Advice

My personal reaction with the SCLA weekend was different from a lot of the other participants. I remember sitting down with the group in a circle, and we were talking about how we were feeling about the weekend on a scale from one to five. Most of the people were saying four or five for the most part, but I personally said a two or three. I was having a weekend that was similar to a roller coaster ride. The weekend had its high points, but it also gave me a real look at the difficult task of resume building and the hard work that must go into running a successful camp.

Gordie provided a piece of advice that I will hold onto for the rest of my camp career: "Take this information only with a grain of salt." Do not take everything as fact for the market as a whole, but take it as a piece of advice that a person can either take or leave behind. We all have to find our own way in the camp market, and we’ll do this by making connections and gathering experience. My weekend after looking at this was so much better. I enjoyed connecting with all of the college students as well as the camp professionals. I enjoyed developing new relationships with people, especially with Dale Adkins from the University of Western Illinois — who I consider a great mentor and role model.

SCLA and Camp in the Future

Would I want to attend another SCLA? Although it just happened last weekend, I would love to return to SCLA next year and learn even more about the camp market. I am currently looking for a camp to work at for my final summer while in college that could potentially form a networking relationship for the future, and possibly a relationship with that camp for the long run. From this SCLA, I am looking forward to connecting more with my new mentor and role model Dale, as well as Gordie and the other camp professionals and college students. I would personally recommend SCLA to any of my friends that would like to learn more about camp and grow as a professional. Camping is a beautiful part of this life and it is going to take motivated and interactive people to take camping into a bright and effective future.


Thanks, Matt, for your sharing your SCLA experience!

Connect with camp professionals on Facebook.