I know it might sound strange to say this–not just because it may seem early to be thinking about summer camp–but working at a summer camp is good for your resume. It’s strange to make this assertion because it’s counter-intuitive and because I truly value camp for its own sake.
Camp is a good break from school. It’s a time to let your brain re-charge. It’s a time to get out of the resume race. Jewish camps teach you things that you don’t learn any place else even at the finest Jewish day schools: shira, rikud, birkat hamazon (by heart). Day school is, after all, school whereas camp is pure fun. Camp transforms not just campers but counselors. In fact, counselors often gain more from camp than the campers do. When you have to teach something to someone else, you learn the material better. When you have to be a role model, you act with greater intentionality. When you’re put in a position to lead, you become more aware of your choices and conscious of your decisions.
That’s the case for the inherent value of camp.
Now, I want to make the case for camp’s instrumental value. I want to make the case because there are high school students who say they can’t go to camp as a counselor because they need to get “a real job.”
I asked Ron Polster, director of Camp Ramah, what he thought of that. He said: “One of the most important skills staff learn at overnight camp is how to communicate face-to-face. At Ramah, where the youngest campers are part of our Gan (nursery) program and the oldest are graduating Gr. 10, and where we have a Tikvah program for children with a variety of special needs, staff learn to communicate with quite a diverse community. In fact, I often hear from Ramah alumni about how, in today’s world of technology, the development of these face-to-face communication skills at camp became so important to them later in life. Both personally and professionally.”
Simon Wolle, the director at Camp Northland, added that camp staff positions “provide the skills today’s employers are looking for in their workers. ‘Twenty-first century skills,’ the skills frequently sought after today’s employers, include Learning Skills (critical thinking, creative thinking, collaborating, and communicating) as well as Life Skills (flexibility, initiative, social skills, productivity and leadership).
Risa Epstein, national executive director of Young Judaea, echoes this insight: “Camp gives a young adult the opportunity to develop skills that will help them on any path they take in the future. Where else will students 18-22 have the ability to manage staff, speak in front of an audience, develop programs and care for children if it were not in the summer camp setting.”
I encourage all our students to work at camp; and if you’re already planning on doing so, don’t let anyone tell you that you need a real job. Being a counselor is about as real as it gets.
Jeremy Urbach attends Camp Ramah and is currently in grade 10 at TanenbaumCHAT.