Resource Library

Camp Includes Me Series

This feature article is part of an ongoing series of articles in Camping Magazine that will focus on inclusion, diversity, and cross-cultural agility to share in our individual communities and out in the world.

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Preparing for Happiness in Career and Life
Published Date: 2018-09-01

Some of the best times of my life have been my carefree summers swimming, exploring, sharing, and making friends as a child at camp. But many of my life’s greatest lessons were learned over six summers working on camp staff. As a newly minted staff member recently graduated from high school, I strived to become part of the model community I found in our camp’s staff culture. Selflessness, servant leadership, and teamwork were encouraged and celebrated. I learned the more you gave of yourself to camp, the more you received in return.

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Natalie, the camp baker, was spontaneously thrust into finishing the meat entrée after Shayla announced that she had a family emergency and ran out the door, leaving the pork loin in the oven. Natalie was ServSafe certified two years ago but suddenly drew a blank trying to remember the cooked temperature requirement for pork loin. The food service manager was away on vacation, as summer camp had ended two weeks ago. In your kitchen, would Natalie have written standard operating procedures (SOPs) where she could find the information needed for the safety of your campers or guests?

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Trends in camp business operations are altogether interesting and not interesting. Interesting because the business of camp is dynamic and evolving quickly to meet the demands of the 21st century, and not interesting because, by and large, the business of camp boils down to one thing: it depends. The 2018 Camp Business Operations Report included both interesting and not-all-that-interesting findings, mostly due to the fact that camps today are increasingly diverse, representing a wider range than ever before in size and financial scope.

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Many of us who grew up going to summer camp feel like it was the place we could most be ourselves. If we had the option, we would make it our second (or first) home.

You probably have a story about your favorite counselor who you looked up to, who helped you imagine the personality traits you wanted to have when you grew up and opened your mind to new experiences.

It makes sense that many campers continue on to become staff members, because they want to do what their most memorable role models did.

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Running a camp is challenging. Running a camp in the United States, where violent events occupy the 24-hour news cycle, is even more difficult. There are so many risks and expectations to manage.

The emotional, physical, and financial impacts of violent events, such as the recent attacks in Parkland, Santa Fe, and the YouTube Headquarters, make the exposure top of mind for camp owners, directors, staff, and parents.

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Richard, a camper in the 1950s, recently returned to Camp Manito-wish YMCA where he spent five summers as a youth. The camp recently commemorated its 100th summer with a celebration for the ages, and while he enjoyed his nostalgic walk through camp immensely, Richard said the Paul Bunyan Breakfast resonated with him the most.

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A friend of mine is a college placement counselor in an academically competitive high school. She is always amazed by how quickly her phone calls to parents get returned. She feels like she has a red phone at the White House. When one dad returned her call she heard an odd noise in the background.

"What's that noise?" she asked.

The Dad: "Oh, it's nothing. I can talk. I'm just doing a colonoscopy."

The counselor: "I don't feel comfortable continuing the conversation. I'll call you back later."

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In the middle of last summer, we received an update from our camp insurance agent about one of the biggest challenges facing camps in 2018 — camper and staff mental health issues. At that point in the season, we already had four teenage campers who had discussed suicidal thoughts with their counselors. We'd been conferring with parents, therapists, and social workers at the local hospital to ensure the campers' safety, and ultimately, we were able to navigate each situation successfully. These incidents, however, highlight an alarming and uncomfortable trend.

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