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From Staff Alumni

Why work at camp... 

Working at Chestnut Ridge will teach you skills you can use forever and memories that will last a lifetime. Over the years we have heard summer staff time and time again say "Working at Chestnut Ridge was the best summer of my life." And that they learned skills at camp that they use daily in their current lives - at work or at home. Read just a bit about what former staff have to say about their experiences working at camp:


Being a camp counselor was a major skills crash course for me. During my summer at Chestnut Ridge, I deepened my ability to recognize the strengths in others and how to encourage them to show up with their strengths, and I learned how to do the same for myself. My patience and compassion grew. My social anxiety disappeared. I learned how to thrive in situations where lots of people were counting on me. I discovered a profound amount of grace for myself.
I took all this and more with me into my career. I don’t think I even understand all of what camp has done for me, but I do know that after coming back that summer, everyone said I seemed different, like I’d changed positively. It certainly helped me feel more grounded and ready for anything that might come my way. Seeing it through that lens, I realize that even though I’m working in a drastically different industry than camp,
my summer at Chestnut Ridge was the true start to my career.

Paula Mandarino - Summer Staff 2015 

Working at Chestnut Ridge has provided me with not only countless memories, but also lessons that have helped guide me in my personal and professional life. As a police officer, patience is probably the biggest thing camp taught me that’s carried over into my profession. At camp, we were always told to treat each week at camp like it is week one and to treat every camper as if it’s their first time at camp. In law enforcement, I come across all kinds of people good and bad. Just like campers, not all people are gonna be the easiest to handle on a day to day basis, but camp taught me with a little bit of patience and understanding, you can get more out of a situation with an individual if you approach it the right way. I never know exactly what I’m walking into on calls, just like you don’t know what a camper might have going on at home. Patience helps me to not only have empathy for a person, but also sympathize with them and help them in whatever way I can, good or bad.

Henry Cooke - Summer Staff 2010 - 2013


The skill I want to talk about is public speaking. Campers can be a tough audience, they get distracted and lose attention easily. They can also give you some of the bluntest feedback you’ll ever hear! If I was going to thrive I needed to adapt and develop how I talked to groups to make sure that they would listen. Camp taught me to be clear when giving instructions, to use eye contact and movement to engage an audience, and it taught me to relax and enjoy the experience of being front and center! This is one of the handiest skills that I have ever learned and I use it all the time. If you can speak confidently to a big group of campers then you can do it in front of anyone!

Kent Donnell - Summer Staff 2011-2012, Program Specialist 2014, Program Director 2015-2017

I first had the blessing of experiencing camp back when I was a teenager. That first year I had the pleasure of meeting one of my closest friends that I would later end up working at Camp Chestnut Ridge. Throughout my time at camp, whether it was working or being a camper, I learned how to aid people in many ways. Some would just require a shoulder to lean on, others an ear to lend. No matter the size of the individual, I was capable of helping out and spreading the love of God in a variety of forms. Which is why I decided to get in the field of healing. I am currently a student in a graduate program for Physical Therapy in plans of aiding those who need it. One day I will be a movement specialist that can help everyone and my goal is to use what I have learned at camp by listening, showing compassion, and leading as a disciple of God in the field of Physical Therapy.

Johny Garcia - Summer Staff  2010 - 2013


During my time at camp I was able to gain experience serving others while taking various leadership roles. These experiences have helped me in my adult life as my passion to serve others continued to grow I became a full time Firefighter/EMT. Camp continues to hold a place in my heart everyday as I am more confident in taking on challenges come my way. A major challenge I have taken on has been starting my own DJ business. Things such as planning activities for the day, quick problem solving skills, and communicating with a variety of different people are all skills I’ve learned at camp. Without camp and the family I have gained I don’t know were I would be. Always remember once a camp counselor always a camp counselor. Everything you learn will help you later in life.

Keairr Butts - Summer Staff 2013-2015

Camp is full of challenges and learnings but for me they all revolve around your role as a leader. At camp you have to figure out how to lead, learn what kind of leader you are and also lead alongside other people that have different personalities and ideas to you. Jesus was also the ultimate example of a servant leader and it's often hard to put other peoples needs and wants before yours, especially when you're really tired! You learn about leading while trying to create a fun and safe environment for the children to engage in. It all requires lots of patience, being flexible to change plans quickly, having good teamwork and open communication. Each day at CCR I had to positively embrace these attributes. It was hard and we don't always get it right but mistakes are learning curves and we can become better next time. I also love the outdoors and working with children, so for me working at CCR really proved those passions. I now combine the leadership skills I learnt with my passions and work as both a school teacher and also a camp leader where I take teenagers on week long hikes! Every day I draw upon the professional skills I learnt at camp and I'm so thankful for my time there."
- Jemima: Summer Staff 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013

Jeff photo.png

"Camp is an awesome place to try and grow different skills! Creativity and problem solving were part of my everyday at Chestnut Ridge. As counselors, we planned and worked together to make camp fun, empowering, and social for campers. Often we did that on the fly!

Today, I work planning and coordinating public health projects in a small town. No two days are the same and I often tell community partners, “We are building the plane as we fly it.” The creativity, time management, and teamwork skills I learned at camp allow me to be confident in a job where the expectations are clear and exciting, but the process for getting there needs to be built and rebuilt.

Most importantly, my time at camp gave me a chance to examine my faith and meet other believers in new a place far from home. Those experiences are God-given moments. Camp prepared me to be an active member of my church home now – someone who is able to share faith." -Jeff: Summer Staff 2015

Find out how being on Summer Staff at Chestnut Ridge can help prepare you for any future job!

Read this blog post from another former counselor on her experience at camp.


Summer Staff Applications are now open!

Questions about working at Chestnut Ridge? E-mail

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