As we ready ourselves for the arrival of our students, we were thrilled to welcome our staff to Jackson Hole yesterday for training (see photo below). Staff training is a special time where we come together to share the processes and procedures of our program, but also to train our staff how to guide, mentor and be the support system for each of our students.
Many of you know that Catherine and I have recently joined the Wilderness Adventures team after working for the American Camp Association for the past three years. During my time there, I had the opportunity to speak to a variety of audiences. One of my favorite audiences, was and still is, speaking to camp staff. The piece below was recently published in Camping Magazine, and I wrote it with the staff of Wilderness Adventures in mind.
Dreams for Our Children
Chief Executive Officer
May 2016, Camping Magazine
American Camp Association
Every parent dreams for their child.
In the training of camp staff over the years, one of the most challenging assignments that we have as directors is to share with our staff what it is like to be a parent. While it can never truly be taught until it is experienced, the goal is always to make sure staff are aware of the importance of the role they have undertaken. You are now the parent. The torch of trust has been passed to you by moms and dads to stand in for them. To be the eyes and ears. To be the reminder and the support. To be the soft and the stern. To be the warning signal and the “all clear.” To dream for their children.
Parenting is a funny thing for which there is no perfect formula, but so many of us desire and dream for the same outcome: to raise healthy and happy adults. And you, as camp staff, are part of the equation for so many parents around the globe. To arrive at that happy, healthy, grown adult, our most precious beings in the world need to share a summer with you. Our kids need you to laugh with them and be there for them when they cry. Support them and nurture them. Give them high-fives and also correct them when they need it. We, as parents, need you to dream about how they will be after they leave you. As you accept the torch that we pass you, you take on these roles, and we hope you have taken them seriously. So take a moment to dream about our campers:
- Will they be more confident because of their time with you?
- Will they learn new skills because you have taken the time to teach them?
- Will they grow in positive ways because you were a part of their lives?
- Will they be better off for having had a camp experience with you?
Just as in the role of parent, the one you are about to undertake has profound and impactful consequences. In this amazing role you get to shape lives — and there is no bigger job. Like parenting, the job will have its ups and downs. It will have its restless nights and nights when you just can’t wait to get some sleep. But then will come the moments of joy and celebration where you see growth and a child’s determination shines through. It is in these moments that you will love this job and the role you get to play in the life of our children.
So I think about the trust I (and so many other parents) put in you, and I dream for my children. Not only for the fun they will have under your watchful eye this summer, or the adventurous and creative spirit you will foster in them during their time with you. But I dream that they come away from their time at camp with their own dreams of one day working at camp. You see, some people want their children to grow up to be doctors, lawyers, or professional athletes. I dream of my children becoming camp counselors. Very few get to have this much responsibility bestowed on them at such a young age. If they dream of having this job, I know we have raised children who have had great role models like yourself along the way, and they have learned how important it is to play this impactful role in the lives of children.
I hope you have the same dreams for all the children you work with this summer.