Hey there! My name is Emily Schmitt and this is my eighth summer at Rockbrook! Six of those years have been as a camper and I’m now in my second year on staff, this year being my first as a full counselor. Last year, I lived the CIT (counselor in training) life and was not sure what to expect this summer because I’d be filling a role completely new to me.
I’m on the Middler line, leading a group of girls either going into sixth or seventh grade— so a very transformative period in their lives to say the least. I started coming to camp at this age. I was about to start sixth grade and though I remember a lot about my camper years, details of my activities and the small minutia of camp life have faded from my memory. The main thing I remember clear as day are all the interactions I had with my counselors. They were my world when I was at camp. I was so obsessed that even after my second senior year I made one of my counselor’s names my computer password! Yeah, I was that obsessed.
I was here for second session this summer and now that we’re officially in third session, which happens to be the session I attended as a camper, I’m getting daily confirmations of the impact that I’m making on my campers— something that surprises me every time it happens. Recently, we had Jugband, where the whole camp gathers together and we sing old camp songs, make silly jokes, put on our best southern accent, and use anything around us as an instrument. I took on the persona of ‘May,’ short for “Mayonnaise,” and soon after my campers started to copy me, and in the back of my mind I knew it was because they were following my lead.
I’m teaching tennis and riflery this session, and though I am experienced down on the riflery range, tennis is something I am less proficient in, although I’ve played casually before. This was rather daunting for me, but I knew if I was enthusiastic, then the girls would be too. So, when we were signing up for activities, I explained to my girls that I was doing something that made me slightly uncomfortable, but I was going to do it with all I had and encouraged them to follow suit. Many of my campers signed up for new activities like climbing and gymnastics, and I even got one of my girls to sign up for tennis! Another example was during our Animal Planet themed dinner, when I started singing along to the songs that were playing over the speaker. Soon my whole table chimed in, and we were all singing along to “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King.
It’s in the small ways that I know I’m making a difference in these girls lives, like when one of them will randomly give me a hug or they’ll call out my name as I’m walking down the hill, just to wave. Back when I was a camper, I didn’t know or realize that the small interactions I had with my counselors meant as much to them as it did to me. These girls are the reason I love this job and the reason I hope to come back for many more years to help create the magic of Rockbrook and make this place as special for my campers as it was for me when I was growing up.
At Rockbrook, we talk a lot about the friendships that campers develop as the days and years go by. Many campers, reflecting on what makes Rockbrook a special place to them, talk about the people that they meet here — people that will color their memories of camp for years to come. Often, the people that come to mind when thinking of camp friends are peers — the people who are in your cabin, that you take activities with, that you go on adventure trips with. Tonight in the dining hall, while listening to campers belt out an appreciation song dedicated to “counselors,” I realized that maybe thinking this way might be putting a limit on our experiences. There are many others involved in creating the camp experience special for campers, but the people with the biggest influence are counselors.
We are always so proud of the staff that we hire to be counselors at Rockbrook. Every year, Sofie works hard to hire a group of women who are confident, strong, and empathetic, as well as fun and silly! These women are the role models and beloved leaders for our campers. They do so much for everyone here, and at the end of the session, campers get to show their gratitude in classic Rockbrook style…with a skit!
The Monday before camp closes (today!), the theme for Evening Program skits is “Counselor Impersonations.” In these very special skits, cabins get to reflect on their favorite memories with their counselors. Campers work together to recreate moments when their counselors made them laugh, comforted them, or any other special memories they share. Because of this, these skits are always incredibly unique and unbelievably touching. I got to watch some of these skits tonight, and from the silly moments that juniors chose to share to the sweet moments that seniors chose, I loved getting to see the relationships that campers and counselors have formed over their time at camp. As the song goes, WE LOVE YOU COUNSELORS!
Working at a summer camp is not the only way (even though it’s one of the best). Consider these 68 simple ways to make the world a better place.
1. Be curious 2. Lend a hand 3. Learn all you can 4. Be gentle with those who make mistakes- including yourself 5. Share 6. If you don’t have to step on that bug, don’t 7. Upcycle, recycle, reuse, home make- turn trash into treasure 8. Be open, stay soft, be flexible 9. Ask questions 10. Remember names 11. Put people first 12. Invest in your neighbors daily 13. Listen 14. Don’t stop at the surface 15. Say, “I love you” 16. Withhold judgement 17. Start over whenever you need to 18. Reach out 19. Try 20. Advocate for something
21. Plant a seed 22. Add laughter where can 23. Spend time outdoors 24. Let others have the right-of-way 25. Give thanks 26. Say thanks 27. Give people a chance (or two) 28. Dismiss perfectionism 29. Explore 30. Every now and then, ignore the mirror 31. Start from the heart 32. Choose words that lift people up 33. Buy two, give one away 34. Sometimes, step up- other times, stand back 35. Hear people out 36. Seek understanding 37. Never boo- always cheer 38. Have a hankering, a sweet tooth, for life 39. For someone in need, give up your place in line 40. Be humble 41. Appreciate yesterday, but move on from it 42. Celebrate even the smallest of achievements 43. If you can lighten someone’s load, do it 44. Invest in children 45. Don’t turn a blind eye 46. Trust 47. Pats on the back, high fives, hugs- reach out and touch 48. Celebrate others 49. Celebrate success 50. Celebrate failures 51. From harvest to heart- honor the work that goes into a good meal 52. Bring life wherever you go 53. Don’t give too much thought to what happens behind your back 54. Deliver bad news tenderly 55. Remember what it’s like to be every age you’ve been thus far 56. Be someone’s safe haven 57. Stay true to truth and dare to dare 58. Break as many falls as possible 59. If you can’t find splendor at first glance, take a second
60. Give compliments 61. Accept compliments 62. Think long and hard before you ever swing a fist 63. Recognize lessons everywhere 64. Show up for tomorrow 65. Trust in your ability to do hard things 66. Lean on someone 67. Let someone lean on you 68. Be of service
We all have the potential to impact the world in a meaningful and lasting way. Learning who we are and what we have to offer takes time, patience, and thoughtful self-reflection. Taking a job at a summer camp, allow the following questions help you discover your own capacity for leadership.
1. Consider the concept of control as a leadership principle. Rather than attempting to control others, how can you enhance your ability to lead by controlling your own feelings and actions?
2. Challenges will help to define your leadership style. In moments of struggle, how will you remain disciplined enough to act in accordance to the purpose you’ve set forth for yourself?
3. Consider all the ways that your life has fallen into place at the exact right moment at the exact right time in the exact right order to lead you to this moment. Life has conspired to help you make an impact on those around you. How will your acknowledgment and gratitude toward these things impact who you are as a leader?
4. Your integrity and credibility define your ability to lead. List experiences when you intentionally allowed ethics to drive your actions.
5. A successful leader values others and keeps a constant awareness on what she can learn from them. How will you work to remain open to perspectives different from your own?
6. Altruism serves as a solid foundation for leadership. List how you put people first.
7. As a leader, you’ll dedicate your life to resisting your own immediate desires and shortcomings in favor of long term success. Consider your vices. How will you work to gain control over these?
8. Leadership begins with a strong belief in your work and an ability to communicate this meaning to others. What makes your work meaningful? How can you share this meaning with the world?
9. Effective leaders empower others by encouraging autonomy and mastery. What tools can you employ to help others feel independent?
10. Leaders choose meaningful, deep interactions over surface exchanges. How do you take an interest in people?
11. Effective leaders understand how to manage conflicting personalities. How can you reconcile people of divergent belief systems to create a cohesive group?
12. Negotiating a wavering sense self-assurance can greatly enhance your capacity for leadership; it promotes empathy and a sense of authenticity. How will you navigate your fears and feelings of self-doubt to enhance your ability to lead?
Partner work can have a powerful affect on a staff development curriculum. This lesson plan focuses strongly on elements of staff accountability and communication. Our goal is to subtly guide cabin leaders to communicate the ideals of camp within the framework of their own experiences. This lesson is best presented mid-season.
Large slips of paper, pens, ziplock bags or small jars
1. Staff are instructed to sit with a partner. (Counselors will switch partners throughout this activity, ten partners total.)
2. On a slip of paper, staff then write a response to a prompt (see below) read by the group’s facilitator (one prompt response per slip of paper).
3. Upon completion, staff will fold their responses and present the folded slip of paper to their partner. (It is critical that each partner cannot see the other’s written response).
4. Partners then place the folded response, without looking at it, from their partner into their ziplock bag or mason jar.
5. This pattern continues for three prompts per partner set.
6. This entire activity will yield a total of thirty different responses for each staff member to store in their bag or jar. Staff can read each response from their partners in any way they desire- they can read the prompt responses all at once, one each day, one each time they need a piece of inspiration, etc…
Partner #1: Focus- Cabin Culture
1. Write a statement that makes your partner feel powerful and confident in her capabilities as a cabin leader. This can be advice, a compliment, a recount of a camper’s description of your partner- or anything else you can think of! 2. Suggest how your partner can pamper herself during challenging moments at camp. How do you suggest your partner step back and relax when she feels overwhelmed? 3. Write a “big picture” statement. Remind your partner of the dent that her work in her cabin is making in the universe.
Partner #2: Focus- Program Objectives
1. What can your partner do when she wants to add new excitement, zip, and illumination to her teaching style at camp? Give her ideas. 2. Remind your partner how the energy and effort she puts into teaching her activity is actually changing the world. How is her hard work making our corner of the world a better place? What is it doing for our campers? 3. Give your partner a unique and creative idea to add a little spunk and spark to her activity’s lesson plans. If you were a camper in your partner’s activity, what would you like to learn and do?
Partner #3: Focus- Navigating A Session Change
1. Tell your partner what you really admire about her. How she can keep this element of her character strong even in moments of fatigue? 2. Describe how you think the new session’s campers will remember your partner. 3. Share a quote or saying that you think will inspire your partner’s stamina and endurance.
Partner #4: Focus- Gratitude
1. List ten things that your partner can be thankful for here at camp. 2. Tell your partner why you’re thankful for her. 3. Tell your partner why she should always remain thankful to her campers.
Partner #5: Focus- Life Beyond Camp
1. Tell your partner how she can use her experience in this job to elevate her next academic year or her next year in her career. 2. Remind your partner of her potential and capacity to change the world for the better. 3. Suggest five skills and traits of your partner that she can use on a resumè or highlight in an interview.
Partner #6: Focus- Happiness and Laughter
1. Tell your partner three things that will make her happy. 2. Describe and thank your partner for a time when she made someone else happy. 3. Write a joke to make your partner laugh.
Partner #7: Focus- Negotiating Feelings of Fatigue in a Job that Requires Energy and Effort
1. Write something, anything, that will give your partner good, energetic vibes. 2. Share with your partner how you navigate your own feelings of fatigue- these tips and tricks may help her too! 3. Work often requires us to give of ourselves completely. Even in moments of fatigue, explain to your partner why this job is worth doing.
Partner #8: Focus- Morals and Ethics
1. How will your partner impact her campers as she makes morals and ethics the driving force behind all of her actions during the camp season? 2. Think of the little ways that we can “slip” in our job description at camp- staying up late, lingering a touch too long in the staff lounge, etc… Remind your partner of how her own experience will be enhanced if she stays strong and resists these little moments of temptation. 3. Your partner is a role model. Share with your partner how her high standards and morals inspires those she works with.
Partner #9: Focus- Challenges and Conflict
1. Name a time when you observed your partner artfully and effectively solve a problem. 2. What is it about your partner that makes her so well equipped to handle the world and whatever it throws her way? 3. Anticipate a challenge that your partner may encounter this week. Based on your knowledge of her capabilities and skills, how do you foresee her successfully solving the problem?
Partner #10: Focus- Our Imprint
1. Why should your partner dedicate her summer to giving her absolute all to this job, her campers, her peers, and herself? 2. How has your partner impacted the camp community thus far? 3. For the remainder of the summer, how can your partner work to make everybody feel like a somebody?
Reflection is an essential component of any staff development curriculum. The following topics provide a solid foundation for individual contemplation as well as ideas to stimulate large and small group discussion. This material focuses on staff attention and efforts while it also communicates clear expectations of a camper-centric work ethic. These themes also help to reveal the meaning and power behind a staff’s work and purpose during the camp season. Each question can be easily tailored to reflect an individual camp’s philosophies, missions, and program objectives. Most of these questions are best presented to a staff at the middle or end of a camp season.
1. Describe a time this summer when you completely exceeded your expectations for yourself.
2. This summer, did you experience more moments that were professionally rewarding or professionally challenging? Throughout the season, did you focus more attention on the rewarding moments or the challenging ones?
3. Describe a moment with campers that made you stop and think.
4. Practice gratitude. Create a list of ways to thank yourself on your time off.
5. Do you have a role model on staff? Identify what you admire about her.
6. Can you recollect a time when you solved a problem by stepping back and using a sense of humor? Conversely, can you recollect a time when you solved a problem by stepping in and taking yourself and the situation completely seriously?
7. Share a positive thought for the start of each day.
8. Describe one topic that you’re passionate about outside of camp and explain why you’re so dedicated to it.
9. Set a milestone to celebrate with your campers this summer. What will it be and how will you celebrate it?
10. Describe a time when you thought and acted beyond your own immediate needs for the good of the camp community.
11. Create an award to present to the entire staff.
12. Name a way that this job will affect your life outside of camp.
13. Name one thing that you offer the camp community that is uniquely your own; something that can never quite be replicated.
14. Imagine that you’re giving advice to next summer’s staff. What would you like to say to them?
15. How do you define “success” at camp?
16. Is there anything about yourself that you wish you’d known at the start of the season?
17. Imagine that you’re writing a thank you note to your campers. How will you thank them for who they are and what they’ve taught you about yourself and your place in the world?
18. Imagine that you’re writing a thank you note to your co cabin leader (or program instructor). How will you thank her for who she is and what she’s taught you about yourself and your place in the world?
19. If your campers learn just one thing this summer, what do you hope it is?
20. What has this job done for you? What have you done for this job?
21. Describe a time this summer when you were pushed to think outside the box.
22. If you could take one thing that you’ve learned in this job and incorporate it into your life, everyday, what would it be?
23. Name your favorite place at camp and a moment that you shared with a camper there.
24. In the last 24 hours, try to count how many times your campers have made you smile. In the last 24 hours, try to count how many times you’ve made your campers smile.
25. Did anything happen this summer that you expect to impact your next off-season year for the better.
26. What is the quickest way to make someone smile? Do you do this often throughout your day?
27. If this summer has encouraged you to add any three things to your life’s bucket list, what are they?
28.Describe five random acts of kindness that you’ve witnessed this season.
29. What are our ultimate goals for our campers? How can we begin our work with these in mind?
30. If you could teach humanity a single lesson, what would it be?
31. If you had to create a time capsule to represent your work this summer, what would you put in it?
32. Give an example of a minor victory that we can celebrate as a staff.
33. Was there a mystery that you solved this summer?
34. Describe how we’re making a difference throughout our day’s work.
35. Name three character traits that are essential to being an effective and successful cabin leader.
36. Did you build anything from scratch this season? (Think beyond things here.)
I think I was supposed to write on the events of the day here at RBC, but I wrote about the ones that make those events happen. I just thought that you, as parents, would fully appreciate learning more about these great leaders that your girls will, most certainly, come home talking about.
Let me begin by saying that this blog entry was left to my discretion. Our humble full time staff here at Rockbrook would not choose to be boastful by having an entry written about them. But, Mama B has the password, and I feel this post is well deserved!
As a camp mom, I get to show up and do what comes natural by helping out in situations that warrant a mom’s attention. My duties seem simple compared to the ones of the full time staff around me who work all year and around the clock in the summer to provide the very best camp experience for our daughters. I am amazed every year at the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes requiring countless hours of planning and organization. What appears to campers to be spontaneous activities, really takes hours of planning to make it happen. Every detail of all planned activities here at Rockbrook has been thought out months ahead of time, so that everything runs smoothly down to the daily muffin flavor, bead color, and set of paddling gear.
This is all made possible by a staff that has a passion for Rockbrook Camp. They were all campers and/or staff here previously, which makes their jobs personal. They all have a great love for this camp, and their goal is for our daughters to have the same great experience that they did. They work continuously to make it even better. They each have gregarious personalities and each possesses individual gifts, that when combined, make RBC run like a well oiled machine.
The descriptions below are only a portion of all the tasks that the administrative staff accomplish here at Rockbrook. I took the liberty of interviewing a variety of campers and counselors here this session because when I try to describe such an amazing team, my words seem inadequate.
SOFIE-She describes herself as “a counselor the counselors,” but she’s so much more than that! Her gift is with people, and her spirit is electric. She does interviewing that takes place all year, as she handpicks the young women that will lead your children. And, I must say, this is one of the best staff of counselors that I have ever seen. Their energy is continuous, and their smiles are never ending. The personalities spotted by Sofie have meshed perfectly with one another, and the joyous spirits have transplanted to the campers, providing a perfect camp atmosphere. The counselors all laugh with her and enjoy her company here at camp, but they have the utmost respect for her. She holds them accountable in a joyous way that makes them want to strive to be better leaders. One counselor described her as “the sun,” and I think that’s a perfect description.
GRACE-She can be spotted here at camp with what she calls her “squinty smile,” and she’s easy to identify because it’s always on her face. If you listen carefully, you can also find her by hearing her laughter, which makes her the perfect liaison between the girls and parents.
She’s on top of any situation that may arise with campers, and she does such a beautiful job of communicating with young girls in a way in which they can relate. She also insures that your girls have every opportunity to participate in all their desired activities here at camp, so that their experience is all that they hoped it would be. She has the gift of organization as shown by her assurance that each child is on the appropriate list for the activity that they have chosen, and that the counselors of that activity are anxiously awaiting their attendance. She spends a great deal of time pairing pen pals, which the girls look forward to, and allows new campers to feel connected before their arrival. Cabin assignments are also a crucial part of Grace’s job, as she carefully places each child with a peer group and counselor for each session.
CHASE-Chase exemplifies the epitome of the Rockbrook Spirit, and I think this is essential for someone planning all the events that your girls attend here at camp. She makes everything “fun,” as shown on your girls faces as they attended a pirate party, World Cup soccer night, pancake breakfast, overnights, vegetable garden cutting, and the list goes on. I can only imagine the preparation it takes to get ready for a party for this many girls with various silly activities and snack choices. She makes it look easy, and the greatest part is, she has the best time of all! She has insured that all the activities are stocked with all the necessary equipment and supplies. A great deal of her time in the off season is spent ordering beads, paint, fabric, clay, string, and all the necessary supplies needed so your daughter can create masterpieces to bring home. Her jovial spirit is evident in everything she coordinates, and a good time is had by all.
SARAH and JEFF Carter-I can honestly say I don’t have any conception of the quantity or variation of tasks this couple accomplishes on a daily basis to run this camp so successfully. If I attempted to describe their efforts, I’m sure I would way under estimate the time and energy it takes to run such an extraordinary organization. But, I can say with confidence, that every detail is considered, every activity researched, every staff member contemplated, and every aspect perfected.
JEFF-Although he may appear to be in the background to many of the younger campers, he plays a profound roll in the experiences of the older campers. As a past Rockbrook hiking instructor, he has a great knowledge and love for the outdoors that he enjoys sharing with the older girls. He provides great safety skills and a sense of security for the girls that are transitioning to counselors, on their three day overnight. One counselor stated “He had a great Rockbrook experience, and he wants to give back so that girls can grow, learn, and pass it on to their campers.” Jeff has a keen awareness of everything that is going on during camp. He’s always there to making sure everything is running according to plan. His state of the art website is work of its own, and he’s constantly seeking improvements to be made each year.
SARAH-Sarah fully appreciates each and every Rockbrook tradition, and she values its meaning. She has worked very hard to preserve the heritage here that she remembers as a child. It is such a joyful experience for her and for the rest of the moms who attended here, to be able to share this with our daughters. Her gentle, calm spirit makes campers comfortable, and she handles all situations with such grace. Whatever circumstance she is faced with at camp, she exemplifies patience, which puts everyone around her at ease. She not only knows each and every camper by name, but she recognizes their distinct qualities. She fully appreciates each of your daughters’ uniqueness, and how they contribute to their cabin community.
When you have owners and staff who are emotionally invested, it drives them to make camp all it can be. Their spirit for camp is contagious, and your daughters will hold on to the memories they have helped create throughout the year. I am grateful that all the girls who attend Rockbrook are the beneficiaries of such a passion, aimed at the creation of a great camp experience!
During the Spirit Fire that closed our recent Second Session, Tenisha was one of the first-year counselors who spoke about her experience on the staff at camp. She described her feelings as someone new to Rockbrook, and how the character of our camp community has affected her. We thought it was wonderful, and wanted to share it.
“Sitting at home and thinking about what I would do this summer, I knew I wanted to do something different, something new and extraordinary. I wanted something where I would make memories that I could reminisce about later, something that would teach me lifelong lessons, something that would teach me how to be a better person, but most of all I wanted something that had a positive environment where I could be happy.
After watching the camp videos over and over on the website, I knew I would find all those things at RBC. Seeing all the smiles and laughter, all the costumes and events cemented my decision to apply. When I spoke to Sophie on the phone I knew I made the right choice. Listening to her enthusiasm about camp, my first thought was she’s not real. There’s no way someone could be that excited about anything, but my second thought was that I have to see what sparked so much happiness and excitement.
From the moment I entered camp I was greeted with genuine welcome from the Directors and counselors I had never met before. Within the first week I had friends and by the third I knew I had found life long friendships. I remember one day I was walking down senior line being greeted by smiling faces and it wasn’t until I reached the end that I realized my cheeks were aching from smiling so much. I was genuinely happy. I realized that even though I reached the end of the senior line, I didn’t want to reach the end of my time at Rockbrook.
Rockbrook: where girls learn to grow. When I came here, I had no idea I would be one of those girls. With the help of the the Directors, my co-counselors, and other counselors who came to be close friends, I found that I grew into a Rockbrook girl who stops every chance she gets to take in nature and appreciate her, who laughs and smiles everyday because she’s surrounded by kindhearted people who care, who wakes up with a spider by her head and doesn’t panic but catches it and releases it outside, a girl who became a sponge wanting to soak up every song, every fact about the camp activities and traditions.
And most of all, thanks to Rockbrook, I became a girl who found her very own spirit fire that she had no idea she carried. It burns brighter than ever now. So thank you Rockbrook!”