Dog days of summer: how a summer camp taught me more responsibility

March 27, 2019 — by Marisa Kingsley

This summer, I decided to go out of my comfort zone and try something new and exciting: taking care of children.

To do this, I signed up to be a camp counselor at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley in Milpitas. The camp is a place for elementary and middle school-aged kids to learn how to care for animals in the shelter.

I had attended this camp many years before and always had a great experience in the short week I was there. I applied to be a counselor and managed to pass the interview, though I soon learned that was the easiest part of the job.

The first day was easily the most nerve-wracking. I didn’t know any of the kids I was assigned to, nor I did have much experience being in a position of responsibility like this. The most responsibility I had with kids previously was having a “buddy” in elementary school.

This role was entirely new to me. There were eight counselors, including myself, and we were constantly on the move.

We helped the kids properly hold animals, assisted them with crafts and cleaned up after them. On top of that, we had to keep them constantly entertained by playing games with them and making sure they felt included and happy.

We also had to walk around and make sure the kids were treating the animals respectfully when they visited them in their habitats, not to mention trying to find the balance between discipline and having fun.

I ended up befriending a group of girls who were friends outside of the camp. I found that just spending time with them and listening to what they had to say was the best way to connect with them.

By the end of the week, they considered me to be their “pack leader” of sorts, which was made obvious by the turkey call I adopted to get their attention.

I look back fondly at the week as a whole (even when I had to hold large snakes) because of the moments when I could make the campers laugh, like through a game of amoeba tag. To put it straight, I was awful at it. The campers laughed as I failed to tag kid after kid, and this charade went on for minutes until I finally managed to tag one. I remember one of the campers saying, “Why are the counselors so bad at this?”

Despite my initial self-doubts, I ended up seeing my time as a camp counselor as an incredibly rewarding experience. I found that I developed more assurance in my skills with children and realized I could handle greater responsibility.

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