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"‘Step outside your comfort zone – it’s where the magic happens.’ My 5 summers at camp absolutely changed my life and will stay with me forever. There’s no place like camp!"
General Counselor/Girls Village Director
I applied to work at camp because I’ve always loved working with children and wanted a chance to do this in a completely new environment. I’d heard so much about the programme from friends who had previously participated and it sounded perfect for me! I’ve always loved teaching drama and so I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to develop this further.
The application process was super easy. I got placed at the Recruitment Fair twice, so I filled out the online application form beforehand and headed to the fair. I was open minded and got chatting to a couple camp directors, and after an hour I was placed! It’s a great place to sell yourself and find the perfect camp for you.
One of my favourite things about America are the people I’ve met there. It’s given me an opportunity to visit friends all around the USA and explore new places. My other favourite thing would have to be Nashville! I’m the biggest country music fan so I head there every year! Oh, and the incredible amount of ice cream flavours…
The best part about camp is without a doubt the campers. You’re given the chance to become a role model to so many people and to make a difference. I love seeing the kids develop over the summer, going from a shy camper to singing and dancing on the tables by the end of it! The friends you make there also will stay with you forever and you develop the best bonds with them. I first went to camp 6 years ago and am still in touch with everyone I met there, having reunions all over the world when I went travelling last year.
My biggest tip is that you’ll get out of camp what you put in. Go with an open mind, try new things and step outside your comfort zone and you won’t regret it! Camp completely changes your life and I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t applied back in 2011. Also, take lots of photos and keep a journal!
This is when I wake up and get ready for the day, before waking the kids up 10 minutes later! We have a 7am Morning Mayhem so any of the kids in my cabin who have signed up to that will head over to wherever its taking place. The rest of them will get washed, dressed, and meet outside the cabin to start preparing our flag cheer!
It’s very early in the morning but already competition is beginning! Every cabin will perform a flag cheer, which normally consists of changing the lyrics to a popular song to make them relevant to camp! I really got into this, so we regularly raised the flag as the worthy winners. Next, our US counsellors and campers will say the Pledge of Allegiance and head up the hill to the dining hall.
Our first meal of the day, and always my favourite! We head over to our table and it’s already set up as an assigned cabin will set the whole room whilst the rest of us are at flag raising. I have waitress tags for my kids so every day they’ll have a different duty (grabbing the tray, cleaning up afterwards, sweeping underneath the chairs). We eat our breakfast, and begin to wake up due to the Camp Soles playlist in the background!
Next it’s time to clean our cabin and our assigned area on camp! We head back and I give the kids challenges to motivate us (who can make their bed the fastest?). We also have a ‘Cabin Fairy’ who comes and checks the cabin so we leave notes, decorations or candy out for them in the hope we’ll win the cleanest cabin of the day!
The YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh has four core values – Caring, Honesty, Respect and Responsibility. We split into two age groups and spend some time performing skits, singing songs and teaching the kids how they can develop these values whilst they’re at camp for the summer.
Here is where we break into different activity areas. Soles Stars are activities that each camper will do all week long, whilst Discovery Treks they’ll do two times and then switch to a new one halfway through the week. We create advertisements for these to encourage our kids to sign up, which is always great fun. Some of these include: High Ropes, Drama, Archery, Nature Studies, Outdoor Living Skills, Land Sports, Makerspace, Swimming and Sailing. These activities will have two counsellors on them and are always great fun!
Time for lunch! We say grace before every meal in the form of a song for example Thriller: ‘Cause this is dinner, dinner time!’ The kids are always super hungry from the activities (as are we!) and this is also the time where announcements will take place and the cleanest cabin will be awarded the golden toilet seat!
Now comes a counsellors favourite time of day! Time to head back to the cabin to have some quiet time. Normally, my girls would make friendship bracelets, write letters home or talk to one another on their bunk. The really tired ones would take a nap and be very hard to wake up..
This is the chance for the kids to do activities they might not get the chance to do otherwise, and for us to include fun random stuff! The choices will include a dance party, aqua jump, creek hike, canoe race, trashion show, chalk art and zip line.
Most kids favourite time of day! We all head down to the Waterfront for Free Swim, where we’ll also have other water activities open like the aqua jump! All the counsellors are in the water with the kids whilst the lifeguards do rotations. Those who don’t fancy swimming can have a sandcastle competition or even bury their counsellor!
Time for another flag cheer! Once we’ve got dressed from swimming, we’ll head back over to the hill to lower the flag in time for dinner.
Dinner time!! Everyone loves a meal time and the dining hall is my favourite place on camp. Energy is high as the camp playlist is played a lot louder than breakfast, meaning many of us get onto our chairs and dance! Every Thursday is Taylor Swift Thursday so the kids go crazy for this.
This is one of my favourite parts of day as it’s very relaxed and allows the kids to do a variety of activities. We have activities open such as land sports, arts and crafts, board games open and they’re able to go back and forth and visit as many places as they want if they have a buddy. The best part of free time is that the Camp Store is open which is one of the places I run, and we’ll have campers queuing up outside the door for their cookie dough ice cream!
This time of day is a fantastic time for all the camp to come together and interact with kids in other cabins. The activities will range from Capture the Flag to counsellor hunt to a campfire! One of my favourites is camp out night, where half of the camp sleep in platform tents in the woods. It’s a great bonding experience for the kids and a chance for them to step outside their comfort zone.
Time for a snack! Everyone heads to the dining hall where we get ready for bed and get all the energy out of the kids by having a dining hall dance party.
As I would normally have the youngest kids, we’d head into the showers first. After this, we held vespers where we sit as a cabin and talk about our best parts of the day. Next, it’s sleep time! The kids are normally worn out from all the excitement of the day so towards the end of the week they’ll be asleep in minutes.
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