Summer camp jobs - a place to grow!

Welcome everyone to my blog. Running a residential camp (Maine Arts Camp), as well as MySummers (a staffing site) and Camp Finders (a summer camp referral service), I have gained a unique perspective about sleepaway camps. I first attended camp in 1970 in Maine; I'm still at camp and love it!

Rick Mades

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Benefits of sleepaway camps & finding the right camp

I have been talking with parents about appropriate sleepaway camp options for almost 20 years now. These conversations have been quite educational. Parents who have attended camp have a clear idea of what they're looking for, although they are often trying to recreate their camp experience (if it was a good one). For these experienced camp parents, if they went to a coed camp, they often look at coed camps. Parents looking for a single sex camp often attended such a camp as a child or teen. On the other hand, one parent may not have gone to camp, so isn't so sure about why their child can benefit from being away from home.  We are all products of our environment, our life experience, and our choices are often reflective of such.

So, if you as a parent have never gone to a sleepaway camp, think about the first time you were away from home for an extended time. Perhaps it was college. How did you adjust? Would it have been easier if you had experienced an away camp, even for a few weeks? Campers grow, gain independence, learn to live with others, learn to ask for help from young adults they can relate to (often different than their parents), learn new skills and improve existing skills, and much more. Talk to people who have been to sleepaway camp and they have usually made life long friendships and truly believe in the magic of camp.

Finding the right camp is the difficult task. Does your child or teen do better in a smaller, more individualized environment or do they thrive around many kids? Is a competitive sports camp the place for your child or an arts camp? Or, is a general camp that offers a wide variety of programs the right place? What is the underlying philosophy of the camp and the values that it supports?  How old and experienced are the staff? Are they invested in working with campers, while also having a strong skill set in certain activities? What is the communication policy of the camp? Is it geared to the best interests of the campers or the potentials fears and demands of parents?

If you're interested in talking finding the right camp, contact Camp Finders. I have been talking with parents about the questions above and many more. I have also visited all of the camps that I recommend and continue to receive good evaluations from families about these camps every year. Besides running Camp Finders, I'm also the owner and director of Maine Arts Camp, which has further enhanced my years and experience in the camp industry.

I look forward to hearing from you about the life changing experience that camp can be!

Rick Mades
Owner of Camp Finders & MySummers (a staffing site for camps)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Choosing the right camp and ways to gain experience working with kids & teens

For Parents searching for the right camp, here are some questions to think about:

*What type of community does the camp try to create? (this is an important question about the underlying philosophy of the camp)
*What is the size of the camp? (often parents and more so their children look at what activities are offered instead of the care of the campers)
*Is the camp more on the competitive or non-competitive bent?
*Is there a religious focus with the camp?
*How does the camp handle new campers, cliques and bullying?
*What is the communication policy for parents and their children?
*Connected with the communication policy, how do camps handle homesickness?
*What is the level of instruction in most of the activities (experienced staff/teachers)?
*Are camps willing to provide references?

These questions are also relevant for staff, especially those trying to understand how sleepaway camps work and why their policies are in place.

Having staff invested in the mission of the camp helps to create an environment of positive growth for staff, campers, administrators and the whole camp community.

Camp Finders provides a free personalized service that helps parents think about the questions above, as well as any other needs their child or teen may have. 

For Staff looking to gain experience working with kids and teens:

Although summer camp jobs are seasonal, having experience working with kids is extremely helpful for new staff to adjust to the 24/7 of living and caring for campers. It is also easier for applicants to answer interview questions if they are talking from experience, not educational theory that they have learned in a college classroom.

So, where are some places you can look for to gain actual experience for a camp job?  Try after school programs, student teaching, child/day care, coaching/assisting sports teams, teaching in a church/synagogue/mosque, volunteering through in your community (perhaps at your old elementary, middle or high school), Big Brother/Big Sister programs, day camp jobs, being an R.A. in college, assisting at your dance studio, helping to choreograph a middle/high school play, internships with environmental summer camps, tutoring, substitute teaching, and babysitting.  Any of these that are more group oriented than individual will give you much needed experience to be a camp counselor at an overnight camp. I hope that this list gives you a starting point to network and find the necessary experience for future educators and camp counselors.

Rick Mades
Owner/director, Maine Arts Camp
Owner of MySummers (the best staffing site for summer camp jobs)
Owner of Camp Finders, a personalized sleepaway camp referral service (since 1994)