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For high school and college students looking for summer work, taking on the role of a counselor at a summer camp for children or youth is a practical job with plenty of perks and is currently in demand. 

Not only does the job of a camp counselor begin and end within the parameters of summer vacation but serving as a camp counselor provides lots of opportunities to pad your resume with experience in a role of responsibility and leadership.

The role of counselor which involves carrying out daily planned activities, supervising campers and being a positive role model may seem simple enough, but there are requirements and special skills that set apart the good counselors from the not so good.

Practically speaking, counselors usually need to be at least 16 years of age. Camp administrators also prefer counselors who have some experience with children. Certification in first aid and/or CPR are also useful additions and requested at some camps. 

Skills that make an applicant a good counselor; however, don’t always come on a resume, said Sharon Sherry, manager at Chesterfield Athletic Club who oversees the summer camps there.

“They need to have a warmth about them. They need to be warm and kind to the kids. Patience and flexibility are important. Strong communication skills also help them to communicate effectively to campers, to staff members and parents, and they need to be good listeners, so they will listen to the kids and hear what they are saying,” Sherry said. 

Counselors also need to be able to help kids learn to navigate the dynamics of relationships, she said.

“With so many different personalities we need to have someone who actively listens and understands if there is a disagreement. The counselor needs to be well-rounded and able to listen and provide feedback. Camp is for the kids, and they want to have fun,” Sherry said. 

She added that it doesn’t hurt to be someone who thinks outside the box, in case it rains.

Sherry said she has had a really good group of camp counselors over the last several years.

“They always meshed together. Working together as a team is very important,” Sherry said.

Organization is also important as counselors guide campers through activities and experiences. 

“We start off our days here with swim teams and we have sheduled activities all day. Our camp needs to run like a well oiled machine and counselors help make sure the whole camp is running smoothly.” 

There is also a lot of responsibility in the role. Children sometimes have food allergies. They have different levels of swimming skills. Counselors need to know the children and be aware of their different needs, Sherry said. 

In addition to the responsibilities, however, there are reward. Being a camp counselor “is a great place to start to learn leadership skills, to prepare for a career in teaching, to get a good base in child development, or any career that requires strong communication skills,” Sherry said.

“It’s a full time job and if I see someone’s resume that says they were a camp counselor for a summer, I think, ‘that is someone with a really good work ethic,’” she said. 

In addition to experience and references, there also are personal rewards too. 

“The friendships they make as counselors can continue throughout the years. The gratitude they get from children is very rewarding. There are internal rewards because they had all these kids all summer long and taught them skills–how to make friends, how to listen to others, how to follow directions and manage their expectations,” Sherry said.

Very often when a counselor leaves camp, they leave a different person. 

“The growth they receive from being a camp counselor will take them far,” Sherry said. “For some of them this is their first job and they feel like they made a difference in children’s lives. When I hear some of the stories from camp counselors, it makes my heart happy.” 

Counselors are in demand at camps all throughout the metropolitan area and many of those camps have already started hiring counselors for the summer.

“We started advertising the last week of January,” Sherry said.

This week’s issues of West Newsmagazine and Mid Rivers Newsmagazine feature a variety of camps with themes that span from sports to art to nature and everything in between. Counselors are an integral part of summer camps and summer camps can be the start of a new path for those looking for a summer job. 

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