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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Teen Need a Summer Job?

By Janeen Lewis

Did your teenager love summer camp as a child? Does he or she need a job but can’t work during the school year? Maybe you’re ready for your teen to get employment experience but still have some carefree time outdoors away from electronics. Day or sleepaway camp is a place for teens to transition to the world of the employed. The paycheck is nice, but being a camp counselor has other rewards, too.

Learning Responsibility As much as teens sometimes protest about it, learning responsibility is the gateway to more independence as they grow into adults. Camp is an ideal place to build accountability because teens are in charge of other kids or activities, but they are still being supervised. If they work at a sleepaway camp, they must keep their cabin quarters neat and guide younger children to do the same. If they work at a day camp, they must show up on time, care for children and lead activities. Working at camp gives teens a glimpse into the adult world with the guidance they still need.

Being a Role Model Do you remember a teen you looked up to when you were a kid at summer camp? Maybe he or she helped you perfect your back stroke, taught you how to throw a curve ball or gave good advice for dealing with disagreements between friends. Teens can connect to kids in ways adults sometimes can’t, and when teens work at camp, they experience the fulfillment of helping younger kids meet their goals and develop new skills.

Refined Relationship Skills From fun-centered sports competitions between rival teams to getting chores done for inspection, counselors and campers have to work together. Being able to do this teaches teens to hone their communication and interpersonal relationship skills. Some camps even offer staff training and morale building activities before camp starts to increase awareness and create discussion about how to get along with others.

Improved Time Management Teen counselors have to be on time to meals, the morning meeting at the flag pole, and activities they lead. They’re also responsible for gently prodding their campers to be punctual. If they are in charge of a lesson, craft or game, they must plan ahead and make sure they have all the supplies ready and set up on time. These lessons will benefit them as they enter college and the work place.

Tech-free Time Most day camps and sleepaway camps either have a no device policy or have only short scheduled tech times. Camp provides a digital detox through nature, sports, and face-to-face socialization.

Preparation for Being Away at College If your teen works at a sleepaway camp, he or she may get a taste of what college life is like. He or she will be responsible for meals, getting up on time or using a coin laundry. These are all valuable lessons that will prepare him or her for college. Also being away from home for an extended period of time can take some adjusting to and it can create some homesickness. Teen camp counselors have experienced these feelings and dealt with them before going to college.

Sharing Talents and Skills Is your teen an athlete? An artist? A nature enthusiast? Can he or she dance, write, or program computers? Camp is an ideal place for teens to share strengths. I served as a camp counselor when I was in college, and it was the first time I realized I had a knack for teaching. It was the gateway to becoming a teacher, even though I was a journalism student at the time. Camp introduces teens to opportunities that maybe they hadn’t considered.

Saving on Summer Expenses One of the advantages of working at an overnight camp is that in addition to a pay check, meals and lodging are usually provided. Staffers’ work and life all happen at camp, so gas use is minimal. Teen counselors chaperone camp trips to amusement parks and museums which are usually covered by the camp. Granted, these covered expenses do require responsibility and work, and are not solely carefree outings, but they are positive perks for a summer job.

Resume Building Working at camp is great experience to put on a resume when your teen is ready to enter the professional arena. Camp experience is beneficial if your teen wants to teach or coach, but working at camp also builds communication, collaboration and problem-solving skills, all worthy resume additions that may catch a future employer’s interest.

New Appreciation for You Being a teen counselor is indeed hard work. It involves stamina, patience, and responsibility. Oh, and teen counselors must also teach, guide, and care for children younger than themselves. It sounds a bit like parenting, right? Teens who are camp counselors may begin to recognize how hard parenting is. With that recognition, they may have a new appreciation for all their parents do.

Being a camp counselor is a great start for teens who want to join the world of work. If your teen is interested in beginning the adventure that comes with being a camp counselor, you can find more information at the American Camp Association website at 

Janeen Lewis is a writer, teacher, and mom to Andrew and Gracie. Her summer as a camp counselor gave her invaluable skills for adulthood.