There are many ways to give your new summer camp staff members the very best foundation for a superb and healthy staff career. Here are just a few ideas to add more layers of support for them as the summer begins:
1. Secretly assign a returning staff member to watch over a new person during staff training. Have them check in occasionally with their new person throughout the week (they could: hang out with them in free time, sit with them at meals or at campfire, answer any questions they may have). It is also an important role for the returning staff member. It helps to affirm their importance in taking care of people at camp this summer.
2. The first night of training (we did this on the first night of our staff orientation weekend at camp in May), give each senior staff member a list of staff members (these groups are divided evenly and with a good mix of new and returning people). Have each senior staff member make contact with these members at some point during the evening and ask them to hang out after formal activities are over (it must look like this was not planned). Have each senior staff member do something fun with their group for a short period of time (ex. go to the docks and look at the stars, play guitar and sing, work on a puzzle, set tables and decorate the dining hall for breakfast as a surprise). Below is a copy of the note written to the senior staff members – we then added a list of names to each person’s note :
Grab the following 3 or 4 people after campfire and ask them to hang out with you. Do not let them know that you have been asked to do this ~ it is a secret mission. Go do something that is not normally done (ex. do not hang out in the staff lounge). Take them down to the beach, go out to the playing field and look at stars, play guitars in the lodge, make something in the kitchen (but be sure to ask permission of the kitchen manager first), play cards, or anything else creative that you like.
This is meant to be a chance to hang out with people they normally wouldn’t hang out with “after hours” and to help them to get to know the Resource staff. If they prefer to go to bed, please let them.
Otherwise, have fun, enjoy one another’s company, and take good care of our counsellors.
3. Guardian Angels: Find a member of your bigger camp community (alumni, parents, board members) to be a support partner for every member of your staff. Frontload with your Guardian Angels that this is a very serious task that cannot be taken lightly. If they feel for any reason that they cannot fulfill all the requirements you ask of them this year, allow them to give you permission to ask them again next year. Have each adult write a letter at several points during the summer (at least 3) to share words of encouragement, appreciation and affirmation. Emails are terrific but everyone loves a package that comes snail mail! At the end of summer, you can have the staff members write a letter to their Guardian Angels sharing their reasons for being a part of camp and how much their support meant to them. Trust us...your adults will love this responsibility and the letters will mean so much to your staff. We even had Guardian Angels send care packages to staff members, although this was never a request from us!
We'd love to hear and share your ideas. Please leave them in the comments section below.