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by Kristin Bender
Spend the summer outdoors. Play and swim at the pool or the beach. Make friends. And even get paid or earn school credit.
Sound like the perfect summer for your teen or college student? Then being a camp counselor could be for them.
But being a counselor isn’t all fun and games. There’s a tremendous amount of responsibility, from protecting children around swimming pools to teaching them about the great outdoors.
Counselors have to be stern leaders while still maintaining enough of a cool vibe to get the campers to like and respect them. They break up fights, monitor meals and cabin bunks, answer challenging questions about the great outdoors (and maybe even the birds and the bees), all while keeping a smile on their face and a spring in their step.
“Being a camp counselor brought out the kid in me, and it brought me the utmost joy and excitement every day I showed up to work,’’ says Gianna Fornesi, 18, of Burlingame, whose work at the Bay Area’s Camp Galileo has convinced her to pursue a career working with children. “I enjoy their vibrant personalities and one-of-a-kind creativity, and I just love playing pretend.”
But with hundreds of camps in the Bay Area, how can parents help their teens find the right summer job?
Here are four camps around the Bay Area that teach children about everything from marine science to team building. All are looking for counselors this summer. Also, be sure to check out your local recreation and parks department, as they frequently hire tweens and teens as day-camp counselors.
Camp Edmo is an arts and science camp associated with four kid-friendly museums: the Exploratorium, the Cal Academy of Science, Mocha and Zeum. There are programs for K-fifth and fifth-ninth graders at eight campuses in San Francisco and the North and East Bay.
What they want: High school juniors and seniors can become counselors, working with groups of 10-16 kids throughout the day. They should be outgoing, fun, good role models, academically strong and have an interest in arts, science and recreation. Students in eighth grade through high school can also participate in the “Counselor in Training” (CIT) program and work as assistant counselors on a volunteer basis. CITs work with the paid staff to develop activities and games, and then participate by working directly with the campers.
What you get: Working with kids on a half-academic, half-fun camp basis is excellent training for working with kids in any setting. Plus, you get to participate in a camp based in part in the Exploratorium. What could be more amazing and inspiring than that?
Deadline: Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until the positions are filled, so it pays to apply early. For more information, call 415-731-MORE or visit campedmo.com.
Camp Galileo is a day camp for pre-K to fifth graders based around creativity and imagination. It’s associated with the de Young and Tech Museum of Innovation for the art and science curriculum, along with the very fun Klutz for the outdoor activities. There are also associated camps for children up to the eighth grade.. Camp Galileo has 21 locations scattered around the Bay, ranging from San Rafael to San Jose, so there is probably one near you.
What they want: They offer paid summer internships for high school students (age 16 and over) and assistant instructor positions for college students. The only requirement for the internship is a love of kids and a willingness to learn. They provide the training.
What you get: Interns participate in all aspects of the camp: working with the kids, designing activities and classes, setting up big events and providing office support. Interns learn how to teach campers to build robots, draw comic books, create mummies, launch rockets and other activities.
Deadline: The early application deadline is the end of February, but they consider applications on a rolling basis. For more information, call 800-854-3684 or visit galileo-learning.com.
Hidden Villa Summer Camp is an environmental education camp on a working organic farm in Los Altos Hills. The program uses the gardens and farm animals, combined with typical camp fare, such as hiking, swimming, arts and crafts and sports, to learn about the environment in a multicultural community.
There are programs for all ages, ranging from day camp for first-fourth graders, all the way up to a two-week hike from the Bay to the Pacific Ocean for high school students.
What they want: Counselors must be 18 to apply. For students entering 11th and 12th grades, there are counselor training programs (called ACT I and ACT II), which are followed by a counselor internship or a paid counselor position.
The training programs start with communication techniques, conflict resolution and leadership skills, and progress through designing large group activities, public speaking, interview techniques and resume-building skills.
What you get: The training programs combine the best parts of being a camper and being a counselor. You get the fun of a tremendous outdoor experience and get to share it with the children. For the paid counselors, this is a summerlong, intense bonding experience that will stay with you forever.
Deadline: Applications are accepted starting Jan. 27. No formal deadline, but it may fill up quickly. Details at hiddenvilla.org, or 650-949-8641.
Roughing It Day Camp is an outdoors day camp sited at the Lafayette Reservoir in the East Bay. There are programs from pre-K through 12th grade in a variety of outdoor activities, including horseback riding, swimming, canoeing, fishing and more.
What they want: Paid counselors must be 18 and have completed a year of college, but there is an extensive counselor training program that includes working with campers on an unpaid basis.
The Campers in Leadership Training program is for ninth and tenth graders and involves both enjoying the camp activities and working with young campers (4½- to 10-year-olds). Older high school students can become junior counselors after completing the training program. There are also non-counselor staff positions available for high school graduates over age 18.
What you get: While the counselor training and junior counselor programs are unpaid, they’re an excellent addition to a resume and can lead to paid positions. You lead and teach younger campers in myriad outdoor skills and activities offered at the camp. You can earn certifications in programs like water safety and first aid.
Deadline: May 1, but it may fill up, so apply early. For more information, call 925-283-3795 or visit roughingit.com.
Kristin Bender is a frequent contributor to Bay Area Parent. Dave Orr contributed to this story.
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