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Home >Press > Camps

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Excerpt from:

These days, camp counselors need to be teachers, shrinks, medics, mediators -- and pals

Peggy Spear
Friday, March 10, 2000
2000 San Francisco Chronicle

EAST BAY -- Leave it to the University of California at Berkeley to put a Ph.D. in charge of staff training at summer camps. But as Jennifer Selke, 32, prepares for her first summer as staff coordinator at Strawberry Canyon Recreation Program, she feels her doctorate in education psychology will never come in more handy. ``Camp counselors have a tremendous amount of impact on a young person's life,'' she says. ``And it's my job to help train some of the coaches and counselors that being a role model may sound simple, but it's going to be one of the toughest jobs they ever have.''

For a few weeks during the summer -- anywhere from one to six, depending on the program -- a child's life will be molded, not by parents and teachers, but by these camp counselors. They range from fresh-faced high school freshmen to adults in their 40s, many with children and careers of their own. . .

Kyle Noone, 28, is a Whitewater Voyages counselor whose day job is writing for San Francisco Web site MyPrimeTime.com, and he agrees that a whitewater rafting adventure is a great place for young people to learn important skills like teamwork and leadership. Nothing is as fulfilling to him as seeing a ``shy young kid suddenly step up and take over the guide position. I can see him become transformed.'' Noone says that the responsibility of leading these journeys is ``awesome,'' and that he really feels strongly that he needs to be a good role model for the campers.

``I need to be able to exhibit skills like cooperation, leadership and teamwork. Luckily, the sport itself brings out those qualities,'' he says. Not all day camp counselors have to be skilled river rafters, but the roles are changing, no matter what camp a child attends.

Suddenly, being a camp counselor is less like being a glorified baby-sitter, and more like being part psychologist, part medic and full-time friend. Of course, camp counseling isn't usually a sink-or-swim situation.. . .

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