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The 5 Traits That Make Our Counselors (And Camp Walt Whitman) Great

A summer camp is really only as good as its counselors. When your child spends a summer away from home for the first time, or the third time, you want to feel confident that you’re not leaving them in the care of another “kid” or a counselor-in-training who won’t know how to address homesickness, lift up a camper’s spirits, or mediate a minor squabble between cabin mates.

You want the kind of counselors you look for in your own caregivers—the kind who can handle a range of situations without having to consult you every step of the way; who love to be with your kids and are good to your kids; and just as importantly, who your kids love to spend time with, too.

We know how crucial this camper-counselor relationship is, which is why we place such a premium on finding, training and hiring the best staff each summer. Rather than only cull from our own campers-turned-counselors, as some camps do, we require our staff to be at least college age, and have experience outside of Camp Walt Whitman. This paves the way for a more mature staff whose perspective on working with children isn’t limited to their own camp.

Beyond these minimum requirements, we also look for key characteristics that ensure that a counselor will have what it takes to make a summer at Walt Whitman an incredible experience for our campers. (So if you’re looking to work here, you might want to take notes!)

Here are the key qualities that make our summer camp counselors great:

1) Warmth

Being a star swimmer or an expert in tennis might make it easier for a counselor to relay their knowledge to campers. But no amount of skill matters if our counselors aren’t warm and caring with children.

2) Strong Communication Skills

Being a good communicator goes beyond telling campers to make their beds. A great counselor is also a great listener, shows respect for campers’ unique personalities, can persuade a tentative child to try something new yet daunting, and can read a situation intuitively.

3) Positive Attitude

Anything can happen when you’re A) working with kids and B) working with kids outdoors on mountain hikes, ropes courses, the open water or a camping trip. Having a can-do attitude and the ability to find the good in any situation and any person is a key part of being someone kids can count on during a strenuous climb or an unforeseen rainstorm at camp.

4) Initiative

Great counselors don’t sit back and wait for things to happen; they make great things happen (just like all great, inspiring people in life).

5) Resilience

Being a positive role model is a hard job and counselors are always learning, growing, and improving.  There’s a lot of joy in working as a counselor but without resilience a person won’t survive when they are tired and need to get a cabin of 10 children to bed, comfort a homesick camper and tend to a child who doesn’t feel well, all at the same time.