The Person I Want To Be
For many of our staff, deciding what summer plans align best with their career goals and future plans is a challenge they are faced with summer after summer. Internships, school commitments and job opportunities can make the decision to return to camp a more difficult one, but the beautiful thing is that Camp Tel Noar is a place of growth for everyone. It’s a special feeling to know that while the world is constantly changing, Camp Tel Noar keeps finding opportunities for our community members to challenge themselves, grow, learn, and have an impact at camp. We are pleased to offer a guest blog post from Caroline Dorn, reflecting upon the life skills and lessons learned as both a Dor L’Dor and Camp Tel Noar counselor. We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Caroline Dorn back to Camp Tel Noar this summer.
When I moved in to my dorm room this fall for another semester at Muhlenberg College, I had only been home from my summer as a Dor L’ Dor counselor for about a week. I was still completely in camp mode, and immediately launched into story after story of my summer in Israel for my very patient roommates. They joke that I have not stopped talking about it since, and they are right. Over my desk, I hung pictures of my bus in Israel, alongside notes from some of my campers about the summer they had and the experiences they would carry with them after our summer together was over. When I’m studying late at night, I see the pictures and notes and think about summers on the shores of Sunset Lake and in Israel, both as a camper and a counselor. I think all of the campers I have ever had, and how each of them contributed to the mosaic that is my camp experience.
I think about the person I want to be.
The thing about being a good counselor is that you’re exercising the same life skills required to be a good friend, a good co-worker, and a good advocate for yourself and others. There’s no getting around it: this is hard work. There is no easy way out when you’re working at camp. You don’t get to clock out at 5:00. You don’t get a lunch break. Your work starts the moment you enter camp grounds for staff orientation in June, and ends when you leave in August, tired and dirty but full of undiluted camp energy and the knowledge that this summer, you changed someone’s world.
Whether it was that kid who finally managed to water ski without falling by week six, or the girl who forgot her homesickness when she was immersed in rehearsing for the camp play, camp is full of big and small moments that make you say, “This is why I do this. This is who I want to be.”
Camp counselors are who we all want to be. For the course of a summer, a camp counselor is a crazy combination of a teenage parent, amateur nurse, teacher, professional sports player, artist, and best friend. A good camp counselor can make standing in line for barbecue lunch just as much fun as a trip day to a water park, and then they can go on that trip to the waterpark just a few days later and manage to keep fifteen excited children happy, hydrated, and sunburn free. They rise to the occasion of any challenge, and they do it with laughter, confidence, and a whistle around their neck.
I think the world would be a better place if every weekly staff meeting started with ice cream and ended with a round of kudos and thanking each other for the hard work we did this week. If ravioli for lunch was a cause for singing and banging on tables, and a birthday was an excuse to skip around the room. There’s something to be said for starting the day with cleanup, and for breaking the daily activity routine on a really hot day so that everyone can jump in the lake or the pool. Camp counselors make things happen. They create magic out of nothing, find fun in the most difficult of situations, and they help each camper find their best self. They are who we want to be.
As with any job, the more experience you have, the more you grow and learn and are able to become even better. The pressure on young adults to leave their camp jobs and find resume building internships is real, and unfortunate. While internships are amazing opportunities, I would argue that nothing is better for personal growth, life skills, and teamwork than a summer with ten to twenty children who see you not as a young adult, but as a superhero.
Working at camp is a support system. It’s a chain of communication involving bunk counselors, department heads, head counselors, kitchen staff, maintenance staff, parents, administrative staff, and more. We all work together to not only create the best experiences for our campers, but to help each other be the best people we can be. That’s a life skill that has taken me far, and that I am proud to support.
Caroline is a junior at Muhlenberg College studying Spanish, Sociology, and Studio Art. Caroline spent six years at Tel Noar as a camper and was a participant of Dor L’ Dor 2009. She then returned to Camp Tel Noar as a counselor for two summers, and most recently spent Summer 2013 with Dor L’ Dor as a staff member. Caroline is passionate about Israel and anything Cohen Camps!