One of the first staff interviews I ever held as the new Summer Fenn Director was a candidate who had formerly been a camper here. It’s important to note that our camp ages out at 15 years old for campers, and then we don’t hire staff unless they’ve graduated high school and are at least 18. No C.I.T. program, no junior counselors. It’s a model that has worked for us, and earned us the reputation of having the stellar staff of professionals of which we’re so proud.
During this interview, this former camper talked about the clarity with which she remembered her counselors’ kindness, and how she always felt the most comfortable here at camp. She had been working elsewhere in the interim years, and had gained solid experience with kids, came with great references and we were ready to bring her on board. But then she had one question for us. “Do you still emphasize the Summer Fenn Way? Is that still, like, a big part of camp? That would be really important to me”. I was floored. I was so new, and had no idea how pervasive, how impactful the ideals of this community were. I learned quickly.
Application after application, interview after interview, former campers returned after years of not being eligible, waiting and preparing for their turn to pay it forward. One graduating senior let me know last summer that he was hoping to return as a counselor this year, and we made it clear that he would need to gain some experience working with kids before we could seriously consider his application. He sought out volunteer opportunities at his college and ended up working with a group that promotes literacy in underserved communities, leading activities and offering homework help. We’re so proud that he’ll be joining our team this summer.
Over and over I hear that our grown-up campers now want to give other children the same kind of experience they had, they want to be the kind counselor that children look up to, and they want to be the stewards of the Summer Fenn Way. And who better to carry on the traditions, the songs, and the culture of kindness and acceptance that has embraced them and countless others since they were as young as 5 years old?
See for yourself. Here are just a few of our proud camper alumni who have returned (some for several years) to be part of our counselor team; hear what they say about paying it forward:
Evelyn M. : “As a camper, I experienced this feeling of unconditional acceptance that meant I felt comfortable just being myself at all times. I love giving this back to the campers in my groups as a counselor, it's a phenomenon that is very special to Summer Fenn. “
Nate S. (in the photo) : “I made a lot of friends and did a lot of crazy and fun activities that I would never have done anywhere else and I want to carry that fun over to the next generation of campers in order to provide an amazing experience like the one I had for nine summers.”
Caroline H. : “I remember learning about the "Summer Fenn Way" when I was a camper, and thinking about what it means to respect and value each individual you meet. I love how the camp still emphasizes this, and I enjoy teaching it to campers as a counselor.”
Kenny W. : “Summer Fenn was almost nonstop fun and magic, and I want every camper to have as much joy and wonder… and as many turns on the Flying Squirrel as possible.”
Lauren R. : “Growing up, Summer Fenn was always a place where I would be appreciated and respected for who I was - each summer that I have come back as a counselor, it's always been my goal to make sure that each camper, regardless of their needs, can fully experience the same wonderful community that I grew up in!”
Karolina K. : “I’m looking forward to giving campers the same feeling of being a part of a safe and welcoming community that kids count on for unconditional support… a place where they can always be themselves.”
Each time I hear these earnest, heartfelt intentions of our returning staff, it makes me swell with pride and I don’t want to keep it a secret. Your child is welcome here; every child is welcome here, and the Summer Fenn Way carries on long after the summer months become cherished memories. And you don’t just have to take my word for it. Our staff is paying it forward every day.
Posted by maggie on Sunday June, 26, 2016