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Working as a Summer Camp Counselor at Camp Chestnut Ridge changed my life!!
Promptly after agreeing to write this blog for perspective counselors, I found myself stuck and unable to put into words how camp has changed my life and why YOU should work at camp. It is overwhelming just how stellar Chestnut Ridge is to me, and it’s taken a few tries for me to create something that comes close to doing it justice. While I’ve tried my best to describe in detail why camp is so meaningful to me...I truly suggest and hope you just come experience it for yourself.
There are very few places around today that are like camp. Places where you can truly disconnect with the world and focus on community and the relationships with those around you. I decided late one night when I was in college that I had something missing in my life - that I desperately needed a change of pace. With that, I decided to spend a summer outside learning about what camp has to offer. Chestnut Ridge was the obvious choice for me. It’s an outdoor focused, Christ centered camp that is welcome to all. I heard about camp because of my church in Apex, North Carolina and knew that my mom had been to retreats there as a young adult. It was clear to me from the start that it would be a great place for me. Everything felt just right. I found myself at camp just a few short months later completely on my own, not knowing entirely what I had just gotten myself into. Greeted with warm smiles, friendly faces, hand shakes and introductions to other counselors, I quickly discovered I would adore my time here at Chestnut Ridge.
My first summer was jam-packed full of a lot of unknown, but also an incredibly freeing sense of adventure. It was a wondrous feeling exploring camp those first few days; wandering as much of the 362 acres we have at Chestnut Ridge as I could and discovering the little ins and outs of camp. I woke up every morning thrilled to get the day started and discover what each new day had in store. I looked forward to morning worship, aiming to guess which songs we would sing that day. I pondered which activities I would get to lead, seeing as they changed day to day. It was such a unique experience to be involved in so many different activities and be able to choose them on a daily basis, just like the campers do at Chestnut Ridge.
Something that sets Chestnut Ridge apart from other camps is the wide range of programs and age groups that counselors are able to explore. As a counselor at Chestnut Ridge, you are given a different assignment every week that you work at camp. We also provide training which helps you prepare to engage with different age ranges of campers. With each age range comes a widely different set of interests, challenges, strengths and weaknesses as well as cognitive abilities. You are also taught during staff training how to facilitate all of the different activities at camp. My typical summer included group sports with Duskies (5th - 8th graders), Hiking or doing Crafts with Mudpuppies (Kindergarten - 2nd graders), High Challenge with Waterdogs (2nd - 5th graders) and Leadership Training with High School campers.
Not only did I create meaningful relationships with campers, but I got to know some wonderfully compassionate and co-counselors from all over North Carolina, the United States and the World. My first summer, I made incredible new friends that were both from my hometown and from Australia - both near and far. I am positively an introvert and often take time opening up to a new group of people - camp makes this process seamless for people like me. I was quickly able to connect with others who had similar interests as I do. Regardless of whether or not someone was new to camp or a veteran counselor - they welcomed me all the same. The bond that you share with your co-counselors is something you will both never forget - so many of the friends I have made at camp are life-long bonds that I can tell will support me throughout the rest of my life.
On the back of our shirts for my first summer at Chestnut Ridge read the words “Paid to Play”. This is exactly how I would have, and still would describe my job to friends, family or anyone who is interested in working at camp. We really do get paid to be outside and create a fun environment for growth and individuality - both for campers and counselors. I had not had the pleasure of attending camp as a kid, so my experience as a counselor was similar to that of a camper during their first summer. I was in awe of the wondrous place that is summer camp from the very start of my time here.
I have worked a number of jobs throughout my adolescence and early adulthood; mainly including food service and coaching soccer. Being a camp counselor has absolutely been the best job I have ever had. Your days are full of silly songs, games and exploring outside with kids. Your time off is often spent with your incredible co-counselors. We are given the opportunity to work in a community of awesome people who are like minded and love to be outside, be active and learn about the Lord. I have never been a part of such a strong community of Christians like I did when I was at camp.
Another huge element of Chestnut Ridge that was extra special to me was the presence of camp when I went back to school. I received care packages, gift cards and tons of emails from our Leadership team about opportunities to work year round. The close relationship I was able to build with quite a few of the year-round team members had a lasting impression on me. I feel as though I can contact most of them if I needed anything at all from references, to life advice and everything in-between. The sense of community with our supervisors as counselors is unlike any professional relationships I have ever had. Their servant leadership is such a great example for all of us who are working under them. I feel as though they truly cared for me and the other counselors I had been working alongside.
Looking back at my first summer, the most important way I was able to grow at camp was in finding my spiritual maturity. I had never truly experienced the Lord and His word in a place that was separated from my family and the church I grew up going to. Until that point in my life, being a Christian meant going to church with my family on the weekends and saying the blessing before dinner. Until my first summer at Chestnut Ridge, I had no idea that a relationship with Christ is between Him and I. It was a personal experience and faith that takes time, energy, and devotion. Like a lot of the campers experiences, my faith changed after being at camp. Chestnut Ridge is a place of exploration and a safe space to experience what faith is, sometimes for the very first time. My faith continues to mold and shape itself while being in a community of brothers and sisters in Christ, and is hopefully a place where I can share my testimony with others like me.
Additionally, I was a counselor for two summers at Chestnut Ridge, and now have the privilege of being an intern for the next year. After two summers as a counselor, I just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to spend more time at camp. During my time as a counselor I was able to learn a lot about the camping industry and the opportunities that working at camp would provide. The leadership, responsibility and team building skills you learn while being a counselor are imperative in just about every career path I can think of. Why not learn these skills at an incredible, fun place where you are able to be outside all day long? One of the best decisions I have ever made was to work as a counselor at Chestnut Ridge - I hope and pray that you’ll join me next summer!!
-Katie Wight Summer Staff 2016 and 2017, Program Intern 2018-2019
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Read this blog post from another former counselor
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