The backbone of any good summer camp program is its counselors. Harker works hard to keep a steady stream of these individuals coming up through the ranks via its counselor in training (CIT) program. Such programs are routine for many summer camp organizations; Harker includes training for all staff under age 18, known as junior staff. The junior staff positions and training are offered to students who have finished at least their freshman year in high school.
These under-18 students start out as CITs and undergo five weeks of rigorous training, a week before the start of camp and four during. Halfway through the camp, freshmen CITs are designated C1 (sophomores are automatically C1s, even if they have not taken the training), the first rung on the ladder to becoming an adult staff member.
Those returning for their second summer are C2; third years are C3; students 18 or older, prior to college, are designated as junior coaches. Those with a year of college or more are adult staff.
Before the start of camp, new staffers learn about the programs, campus and directors, and are paired with adult staffers to learn specific duties. Over the first four weeks of camp, new staffers train two days per week.
Tobias Wade, the program director in charge of junior staff training, says that the goal of the classes is to “get them exposed to a lot of different things and get them thinking about what they would do if they were an adult staff member.”
About 90 percent of students involved in the CIT program come from Harker’s upper school. Rohit Agarwal, Gr. 10, a Harker student who worked this past summer as a CIT, likes switching activity groups every week as it gives him a good perspective on the camp as a whole. He appreciates the opportunity to “learn about different leadership styles and how to become a better leader,” he says.
As students move up in the ranks, the responsibility level increases, as do expectations. CITs and C1s focus on basic training and leadership. Wade states that initially the goal is to instruct the counselors on “how to teach activities, how to treat campers and how to discipline appropriately.” For C2s and C3s, the classes concentrate on more focused areas. For example, C2s work on planning activities and learn how to teach an activity, while C3s practice writing camp blurbs and comments.
Anirudh Agarwala, Gr. 12, is a student at Monte Vista and just spent his second year working at Harker. Comparing the training class he took this summer now to those he had in his first year, he says that the “training was less hands-on and they expected more of you.” This style of instruction helps counselors develop independence and responsibility.
All junior counselors are expected to plan at least one activity for their group each week. As they advance to the C3 level they plan several activities weekly, which is a great help to the coaches they are working with.
Ultimately, the goal of CIT is to produce young adults who are excellent summer camp counselors, and, to this end, it has been a “terrific success,” Wade says.