Uncategorized 08.24.17

The Transition from Camper to Counselor

The Transition from Camper to Counselor

By Yael Perlman, Staff Member at Camp Stone

The butterflies in my stomach were back as I began to recognize familiar sights. A farmhouse, a winding dirt road, an Amish buggy: all things I associate with my little Jewish camp in Western Pennsylvania. My jitters were especially big this year as I came to camp without any luggage tags or parents by my side, as a staff member. I got out of the car, and was immediately greeted by a few of my counselors from past years. This calmed my jitters immensely. My counselors were always super cool, big sisters and role models.

Beth Kissileff and Yael Perlman at the Let My People Sing program at Camp Isabella Freedman, August, 2016.

I was nervous for my new role at camp. Then I thought, it’s just like old times. But in the next week I would find out that the relationship would not be the same now that we were all equals.

After that, nobody really paid attention to me as they were all preparing for the rest of the staff who would be arriving in a few hours. See usually, I would find my friend who was also driven up by her parents and we would go off to our crazy adventures before our counselors found us and the other kids arrived. Instead, I realized I didn’t have counselors to report back to. I was sort of on my own.

This was my first of many lessons learned while working at camp this summer, with great freedom comes great responsibility.

I love every moment of camp but I quickly learned that as staff, we don’t have much supervision so we could do what we wanted—to an extent of course. Many kids took advantage of this, skipping davening (prayers) or meals but I knew that I didn’t want to be one of those staffers. I made an effort to go to everything on time but it was sometimes a struggle seeing as getting up in the morning is very difficult for me. The first morning of staff week one of my old counselors actually came to wake me up, but after that, I was once again on my own. If not for my amazing friends, chances are I would have slept through quite a bit.

One time I was supposed to help run an activity in the kitchen, where I worked, and I accidentally overslept missing half the activity block. I sprinted to the kitchen only to find that my two co-workers had taken over.

That’s another lesson I learned: the importance of flexibility and a positive attitude. My co-workers could have been annoyed, but instead they ran the activity without complaint. Everybody was a member of the team  and if one fell behind, it was the responsibility of the others to help them catch up. There were many times where we had to do tasks that weren’t necessarily part of our job description like taking out the trash, but if we didn’t do it, the kitchen would just smell bad. Even if these chores weren’t the most enjoyable, they were a necessary component of camp.

When you’re a camper you don’t realize how much goes on behind the scenes.  One of the most memorable things about staff week was the night before the campers arrived. The directors went through each (anaf), or branch of the staff, and explained in front of everyone what their job is and why they are essential to the running of camp. The directors explained that even the “small” jobs are necessary and without them camp could not run smoothly.

We’re in charge now and if we want to create the same environment that we loved as campers, we had to take our jobs seriously.

Although being on staff involves more freedom and independence, it comes at a price. Responsibility for yourself is key and if you don’t step up to the plate, it will hurt your camp experience. Sure, I could have slept all summer, but then I would have missed out on so much. As a camper your counselors are there to ensure that you’re safe and are having fun, but as staff it’s up to you to make your own experiences. I feel that I was able to mature and grow immensely on staff this summer because of the responsibility thrust upon me and the choices I made to embrace these new challenges.

This post is a part of of a two-part mother and daughter series. Click here to read about Yael’s mom’s camp experiences.    

Yael Perlman is a rising senior in Pittsburgh. She has attended Camp Stone for four summers as a camper and just finished her first summer working in the allergy kitchen (Baby Bach). She hopes to be a counselor next summer and for many summers to come!