Camp Counselor Of The Week: Charlotte Sykes

This ‘Camp Counselor of the Week’ series has really been getting some attention in recent weeks – have you read them all yet? This week it’s over to Charlotte, who is about to spend her 4th summer at camp and is now running the LEAD program, training future counselors!

Summer Camp Counselor Horse Riding

1. Where did you go to camp? How many years?

I work at Camp Sloane YMCA… this summer will be my 4th

2. Why did you decide to work at summer camp?

I have two older sisters, and when they were in university they worked at summer camps using BUNAC’s Camp America and Work America programmes at had brilliant fun, so it was always in my plan to do the same. I was already a young leader at The Girls’ Brigade so knew that I enjoyed working with children so in the summer of my 3rd year of uni I applied and got into Sloane. I just wish I’d gone 4 summers earlier!

3. What agency did you apply to camp through and would you choose them again/how did you find their service?

I’ve applied through 3 different agencies. First was BUNAC like my sisters, then Camp Leaders and 3Adventures as requested by my camp. BUNAC were great in providing support for first timers by arranging a pick up at JFK and accommodation for the first night, which was a really great opportunity to meet fellow counselors going to the same camp. Similarly, Camp Leaders and 3Adventures were really supportive with my direct placements and made it as straightforward as possible – especially 3Adventures!

I would certainly recommend BUNAC for first years as they have years and years of experience, and I think that 3Adventures were extremely helpful and quick to respond to any questions that I had so I would recommend them for direct placements.

4. What is/was your role at camp?

I originally was hired as a general counselor working in the Performing Arts activity area at Camp Sloane. I thoroughly enjoyed the summer but felt like the PA was missing something – A badass Rock Band!! After discussions with the directors, they agreed to me coming back as ‘Director of all things Loud and Awesome’ (actual job title…maybe), so in 2013 I ran classes for all campers to be able to learn or develop their skills on guitar, bass, keys and drums! This was a success at all levels and a number of Sloane bands were born that year, with their premier show being the prestigious Sloane Showcase! The Rock Band Room is now a permanent building (moved behind the dining hall for noise reduction purposes) and inhabits many future rock gods and goddesses throughout the summer season at Camp Sloane YMCA.

In my first 2 summers as a PA activity counselor, I was also a counselor to the older campers who were involved in the LEAD program. The LEAD program (also known as the Counselors In Training program) is a session run by camps to start the process of turning their long-time campers into amazing counselors. This was a program I loved to be a part of and was honoured to be asked to direct the program in 2014. I spent the summer delivering sessions on leadership, taking the campers to volunteering sites for local wildlife charities and Habitat for Humanity sites, creating and executing different team building exercises, organising courses with the American Red Cross and basically being Mother Hen to over 60 14-17 year olds! I am delighted to be returning this year to take on the role again and hopefully make it an even better program.

Summer Camp Counselor Friends

5. Did camp meet your expectations? In what ways?     

Camp absolutely exceeded my expectations. When I was about to leave I was so scared of fitting in and making friends, but camp is the easiest place in the world to do that. Everyone shares the same values and love for the place that you are in that it is hard not to enjoy yourself. The weather is AMAZING, yes you get a few storms but when it’s hot it’s hotter than you’ve ever felt in sunny old England. Days off give you enough time to sleep, eat, shop and contact home and everything is cheaper in America! Where you’re living is the most idyllic place you have ever set your eyes on and there is every outdoor facility that you could ever want at your fingertips. The best thing about it is that work doesn’t feel like work. Every day feels like a holiday and there’s always something amazingly fun going on around you!

6. What 3 essential items would you never go to camp without?

A HEADLAMP (flashlights are for basic people, you want that hand free for candy), a coffee cup and ear plugs (because I’m a fussy sleeper ;))

7. What is your best/favourite camp memory?

There’s really too many but I’ll have to go for 3. My 3 birthdays! I a massive lover of my birthday and I am so lucky to have in my favourite place and around people who know and appreciate how much I love my birthday! Every year has gotten better, with surprise cakes and presents, banners, special Charlotte dinner themes and treasure hunts! Last year I got 6 cakes, a massive banner in the dining hall, Charlotte themed dinner, a ride on the banana boat, a huge box full of presents and a lighted path to my ‘surprise’ party in my tent – I am blessed!

OH and a few more. The amazing thunderstorms, I have a compilation of epic sights going on in my head right now!

8. What is/was your favourite camp food?

Fajita night, it’s such a delight! But the best part is late night pretzel m&m’s!

Summer Camp Counselor Dressed Up

9. What is/was your favourite camp cheer/chant?

Oh gosh! Peel banana, peel peel banana!

10. What is your favourite camp saying/word/expression?

“YM..”

11. Where did you travel to after camp (if you travelled)?

I travelled my first year, I did a lot in a small time but it was great. First of all I travelled back to NYC for a few days, then it was Boston, San Diego, LA, San Fran all in 8 days, then back east to Maine, then NYC again to meet another camp friend then Toronto and Chicago and finally back to NYC. I had an awesome time and like I said, I travelled with friends I made at camp. It’s so easy to find someone who wants to do the same as you who doesn’t have any plans and wants to just see everything, so my advice would be to wait until camp to before afterwards! My other years I just spent time in NYC after camp with American friends who I’ve made there (very handy ;))

12. How has camp influenced you/who you are/what you do?

I can’t stress enough how much camp influenced me. It helped me develop into the adult I am now and it defined my career path. I would probably not be a teacher or certainly love being a teacher as much if I hadn’t have gone to camp, but the skills you learn at camp are transferable to every job so I think it changes everyone’s life for the better! I also fell in love there and met a number of extremely close friends and without them in my life I would be a completely different person!

Summer Camp Counselor Staff

13. What is the BEST thing about being a summer camp counsellor?

Everything! The friends you make, the kids you meet, the sense of belonging to such a brilliant place, the activities you get get involved etc etc etc…

But if I had to choose one thing I think it would have to be the impact that you have on the campers. They worship the ground you walk on and that is a brilliant feeling which make you want to be the best you can be for them and for yourself. When someone thinks you’re the best, you have to keep up with the solid evidence that you are!

14. What’s the WORST thing?

It get can really tough some days and it can be hard to keep up the smile for the kids. The worst worst things is not summer. When you’re just at home trying to get on with your normal life. It is hard to switch out of camp mode and it can be hard to move on after camp! I haven’t had to endure a summer where I’m not there yet but I am certainly not looking forward to that!

15. What the most important thing that camp has taught you?

That if you are confident, friendly and have a positive outlook on everything that you do you will find that everything is a lot easier and people are a lot nicer in turn. If everyone acted like they were at camp every single day then the world would be a brighter place!

16. Anything else you want to say to people thinking about working at summer camp?

DO ITTTTT. I know it can be a scary thought but once you’re there you’ll never look back. And if you do and you hate it, at least you’ve had a cheap trip to America for the whole summer and it looks great on your CV 😉

PEACE

Summer Camp Counselor

If you want to get involved in the ‘Counselor of the Week’ series, please just get in touch via the contact page, Facebook or on Twitter and I’ll send the questions right over to you!

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