Archive for November, 2010

The last job of its kind — Camp Counselor

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

By now you probably have a pretty good idea about what life is like for campers at summer camps, but there is an entirely different world behind the scenes of summer — the life of a camp counselor. Imagine a job where you can make new friends, participate in fun summer activities and have unique opportunities for personal growth and development. Indeed, being a camp counselor might just be “the last throwback job.” It’s intense, it’s 24-7, and there are few jobs like it for young adults.

A camp counselor’s day begins bright and early, when the campers wake up. They get up with the kids, get dressed, share breakfast together and motivate the campers to start their day. Counselors for the youngest campers (grades 1-5) stay with them throughout the day, like a big brother or sister, ushering them through their daily routine of activities, meals and field trips. Campers develop close relationships with their counselors over the summer, and the counselors take on the roles of surrogate parent, mentor, leader, role model, and friend. The counselors work hard to maintain a great relationship with campers (Read more here about the training counselors receive.)

While counselors have fun and get to participate in camp activities, they also have a tremendous amount of responsibility. “I learned to be a leader as a camp counselor,” Disney CEO Michael Eisner told Charlie Rose in a 2005 interview. In his memoir, simply titled Camp, Eisner reminisces about his many summers as a camper and then counselor. In the corporate world, Eisner says, no one is willing to give you real responsibility until you are in your 30s or even in your 40s. At camp, that opportunity comes much earlier and the payoff is huge.

David Knee, a counselor at Starlight who runs the camp’s counselor-in-transition program, couldn’t agree with Eisner more. “The position of counselor provides you with learning far beyond camp. It transcends camp to enable you to conduct yourself as a professional in any environment through community service, care for others, and the development of pedagogy, training skills, etc.”

Knee began his camping career as a camper 14 years ago. He is now the person responsible for building the counselor-in-transition program – grooming the eldest campers to be the counselors of tomorrow. Regardless of what camp your child attends, if they are interested in one day being a counselor, they will probably need to complete some sort of transition program like the one David runs at Starlight

Starlight’s program takes two years and after this training, CAs are eligible for staff positions. Camp Starlight’s “Counselor Apprentices” are usually 15 or 16 years old, and they receive specialized training as well as mentoring from current counselors, whom they shadow. “They are observing and instructing at the same time,” Knee says of the CA’s dual role as trainee and counselor. An important part of the CA training program is letting the CAs see the “backstage process” of camp, Knee says. Even campers who have attended the same camp for years don’t see all the hard work it takes to make camp great. So Starlight’s program begins right after campers’ “senior summer” at camp and includes a bus trip down the California coast just after visiting day for the group.

Through such transition programs and experiences, counselors can grow and flourish in the leadership roles they are given and prove themselves capable before and during high school, not just after they graduate. But the lessons learned at camp also provide excellent tie-ins to other careers that involve working with children, including teaching, coaching, and social work; not to mention careers in business, management and administration. Being a counselor demands highly refined interpersonal, time management and training skills — assets for any career and in any profession.

Take a look around – you might be surprised how many former counselors are in your world!



Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Now that our campers are back in the swing of things at home, the excitement of being back at school wears off and the inevitable post camp blues begin. How can we not look back and pine for the days that start with morning line up instead of homeroom? Daydream of six periods of sports and activities instead of writing and mathematics? Suddenly, after a first summer at camp, the school year seems to take even longer to pass before those glorious summer days in the sun.

Some of the things our Junior boy campers said they would be missing most were pool parties, tubing, and laser tag! Our Junior Girls are longing for Panic, MTV Night, and the Week in Review. They also really enjoyed getting to try new things in their activity periods like robotics, rocketry and guitar and can’t wait to try more new activities this summer. All the juniors agreed the best part of being at Camp Starlight is the new friends they made, and they can’t wait to be reunited. Across the board, our juniors can’t wait to be back at Camp Starlight next summer, because they “love Starlight”, “can’t wait to see their friends again”, and “Starlight is their summer home!”

Lindsay Jennings

Bringing Tradition To Today: Making Summers Extraordinary

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Every day at summer camp is exciting and busy, but every camper looks forward to those special camp events and traditions that are unique to each camp. I still have vivid memories of our camp talent show and the wonderful skit our staff put together using a sheet, a bright flash light and their own shadows. It took place thirty years ago, but it still brings a smile to my face, and that one memory triggers a hundred others. Every camp has their own special camp traditions that bring the entire camp together for friendly competition, unique bonding activities, wonderful gourmet treats, and a chance to show off talents and teamwork.

At Starlight, campers look forward to MTV Night, one of the biggest lip-synch competitions anywhere! Throughout the course of the summer, each bunk comes up with, practices and performs a live music video to compete within their division for a chance to make it to this big night. Twenty acts make it to the finals and the entire camp comes together to watch on the magical outdoor stage. At the end of the night, the winning bunk/act is presented with a trophy and a pizza party! Camp Starlight, which works on the brother/sister model of having separate boys’ and girls’ sides of camp, also hosts Spirit of Starlight, the best night on Girls side! Each division picks a theme to represent their age group and the feelings they have for camp. A song, dance, cheer, banner and cake are all created to show the spirit of the each age group. As each division performs, the others are cheering on their camp “sisters” in this friendly, energetic competition to show us what they are all about. Its fun, it’s loud and the spirit is out of this world. After we crown a winner, the entire girl’s side unites for cake, hugs and we sing our traditional camp song “Friends, Friends, Friends.”

Such special events are the memory-makers of summer camp, where kids, staff, counselors and bunkmates come together in friendships that will last a lifetime! So when will we see you there?


Paint the Caps for Kids with Cancer “Making Kids Smile One Cap at a Time”

Friday, November 19th, 2010

The first national “Paint the Caps” school event was held at The Benjamin School’s 50th Anniversary Kickoff Celebration on October 3, 2010 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. “Paint the Caps” is an organization that provides pediatric cancer patients with personalized, hand-decorated baseball caps. The purpose of “Paint the Caps” is to brighten the lives of cancer patients by providing them with a sense of love and support during these difficult times in their lives.

This event was organized by one of “Paint the Caps” founders, Hayley Miller, and representatives of the Benjamin School, student, Jamie Corey and visual arts teacher, Mrs. Monica Sweeney, along with the Benjamin School’s National Art Honor Society students. For a donation, Students, parents and alumni had an opportunity to work hand and hand with the art students to create original designed hats. The hats will be donated to P.O.S.T., Pediatric Oncology Support Team, and distributed to local children’s hospitals. The proceeds from the donations to participate in the event will benefit The Benjamin School Memorial Fund. If you are interested in hosting an event, please feel free to contact for more information.

Hayley Miller

The Heart of Camp/Caring for Kids: Staff and Counselors

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

In an earlier post, we discussed one of the primary concerns parents have about summer camp – will my child be safe? This week, we wanted to talk about the people who care for our kids at camp and keep them safe; how they are chosen and trained to do their jobs. When you’re putting the care of your children into other people’s hands, it’s important to have confidence in their caretakers. At Starlight, not only does every person who works at camp have to love working with kids, they all also have to be good at it and have the skills to be a success.

Building a good staff begins with selecting the right personnel. We focus year round on finding, recruiting, and selecting the best qualified counselors to live and work with the children. Most of our head counselors, group leaders, campus leaders and department heads have been with their camps at least five years, and some have returned every summer for 20 years! All are professionally-trained educators and coaches who have proven their ability to instruct a particular activity. The counselors, who have the most direct contact with your camper, have all completed at least their first year of college (with many further on), and go through a rigorous interview and selection process, and reference and background checks. We recruit counselors from over 100 different colleges around the country and many fine universities throughout the world. Just over half of the counselors return from year to year, with many only ending their counseling careers when they graduate college and move on to real-world schedules (no more free summers!)

Of course, selecting the right people is only the beginning of the process of creating a successful staff. The counselors must also be trained and oriented to the camp’s particular processes, schedules and procedures. To do so, all staff must complete a week-long Orientation. We are especially lucky to have large groups of former campers who return to be counselors. They know the camp traditions and songs, and, more importantly, they remember what camp looks like from the point of view of the campers. At Orientation, they can share their experiences with new staff members and serve as ambassadors for our particular mission and traditions.

The seven-day day Orientation is filled with training in individual responsibilities, working with the campers, and of course, health, safety, and emergency procedures. Such intensive training ensures that counselors aren’t just up to speed with the programs but also child development and the best techniques for working with kids in the cabins. We bring in outside speakers to provide info on contemporary issues for schools and homes as well as advanced skills for working with other people’s children and those responsibilities.We also meet with counselors and go over each individual child’s information and specific issues that might arise over the course of the summer. By the time the campers arrive, the counselors have a great understanding of every child in their care, gleaned from information from the director’s meetings with parents, the camper’s profile information forms, and past years’ knowledge of returning campers. Even the group and campus leaders know the children well, since they are mostly veterans who watch the children grow over time. Orientation is fun, and the trainers work hard to create a feeling of unity and team amongst the staff.

Beyond the formal week long Orientation, over half of the individual activity instructors (waterfront, rock climbing, mountain biking, etc.) come to camp early, with key staff and counselors often training three weeks prior to Orientation. Counselors who are responsible for specific program areas are also trained to write lesson plans and taught how to execute a fun and instructional activity period. Each attends an entire training day devoted to teaching kids their particular activities and making it fun. Finally, every camp staff member is well-trained in general safety procedures and first aid, with additional courses and certifications dependent on counselor responsibilities.

All this training and teamwork that begins in Orientation quickly spills over into a great summer for the kids. But the seven days of Orientation before camp starts is just the beginning. Camp staff attend weekly meetings and trainings, and everyone receives ongoing support from their supervisors on a daily basis. Without a well-trained staff, no camp can have a successful season. The right people – people who love children and are good at working with them – create the foundation for a terrific summer of experiences and memories for the most important people on campus, your children.



Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Each camper looks forward to their summer as an Upper Senior from their first day at Camp Starlight. The Upper Senior summer was filled with so many special traditions, memories, and new roles at camp. As the oldest campers, our Upper Seniors assume the responsibility as the role models for the rest of camp. They were involved in top-secret activities such as C.R.’s competitions where Scott and Qynn drenched them with buckets of water and shared the experience of Jamaican and Mexican flavors. These activities brought them together as a division and they worked together to have a great summer. This summer was a rivalry between the Slavic Muffins, the Crimson Chins, the Fluffy Ninjas, and the Flying Pigs (in Peruvian). Another highlight of being an Upper Senior is the U.S. versus faces of summers present and past… can someone remind me who the winners were again this year? There is nothing like cheese balls, shaving cream, a delicious sandwich surprise (created with love by the division leaders), and a wonderful dizzy bat experience just to name a few, to start off a Starlight summer day! This summer the Upper Senior Boys started a new tradition at camp with Scott’s R, P, S competition, and the Girls started T.T.W. Of course we celebrated M.O.P.S, while S.H.L.A. continued to be a great success. During Olympics, the torches were lit by Upper Senior representatives, the Upper Senior Captains were instrumental in leading the spirited Blue and White teams, and finally, perhaps the most looked forward to event was Rope Burn. The Upper Seniors’ summer was closed by banquet, which was held in the Rec Hall for the first time. The summer of 2010 created many life long memories for both campers and staff. Thankfully, the Upper Seniors of 2010 created many of these moments. This particular group of campers, who made the summer unforgettable will impact the Starlight family forever. BOOM


If I could go back to camp. . .

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Star light, star bright,

first star I see tonight.

Wish I may, wish I might,

have this wish I wish tonight.

If you’re a summer camp alum, and you had some extra wishes lying around, would you use one to go back to summer camp? If you could go back today, what would you do?

We asked and you answered, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Here’s some of what your fellow camp alums had to say. We challenged them to finish this sentence:

If I could go back to Camp Starlight, I would:

…watch the sunset over Perch Pond.

… sit at kiddie campus and watch the sunset.

… take a walk to Oz and relax for a little while

… listen to the wonderful sounds of camp. Kids laughter, wind in the trees, splashing in the lake…

… play bananagrams in the HC during shower hour!

… say something stupid over the PA

… play bunk ball at rest and shower hour

…take a kayak out on Perch Pond and just take it all in.

…sing songs by a campfire

…would also take a kayak to Perch Pond. All your problems are solved when you are on a kayak on Perch Pond.

…come out of retirement in the Starlight Hockey League.

…regain the SWF title!

What would you do if you could go back to camp today? Use the comments section to let us know!


Thanks for the image *PaysImaginaire*

10 for 2!

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Who lives ten for two? Need we ask? It is funny how to the outside world this question has no meaning. However, to us Starlighters, it has become our motto, what we live for, those 2 months of camp. For the next “10” months, we will be busy working on more wonderful additions to our program and facility, hiring another amazing staff and planning a summer full of more exciting activities and fun. We are so fortunate to do what we do and be part of camp all year round. But we know that for you waiting these ten months until we are together again in the “18461” is the hardest. So we hope that you will continue to feel connected this winter by reading The Starlighters, watching the video yearbook, checking out new promotional video, joining us at the Summer of 2010 reunion, and reading the Starlight Blog. We also suggest that when you have a moment when you are just plain old missing camp that you reach out – give us a call, shoot us an e-mail or write us a blog, because we understand how hard it is to live 10 for 2.

David and Allison