Chronicles of a camp counselor

Audra Gamble

Most college students have some sort of summer job to help pay for tuition, and sometimes those jobs can be pretty weird or unpleasant. Some of us work in retail, some of us do landscaping and some of us do whatever odd jobs we can find.

However, I do something a little different. I deal with customers too, but the average age of my customer is around 11 years old. I’m a Girl Scout camp counselor during the summer, and I wouldn’t trade that job for anything else in the world. Being a camp counselor isn’t ever easy, but it’s incredibly rewarding and always hilarious.

When you’re a counselor at a sleep-away camp, you become part parent, part best friend, part mentor, part choir teacher, part entertainer and full-time goofball.

Of course, being around 80 Girl Scouts for two months of the summer is never boring.

This summer, I tied jingle bells to kids that sleepwalked, I helped eight-year-olds dig to Paris in a sandbox, watched a teenager drop-kick a catfish, taught the whole camp how to make a Maypole, pretended I was a sorting hat from “Harry Potter” and led a midnight ambush on some other campers sleeping out in tents.

Of course, those are just some of the many highlights from this summer. Unfortunately, being a camp counselor isn’t always just S’mores and happy camp songs.

Sometimes the campers are really annoying, or sometimes you forget the most important ingredient to your campfire dinner, or you have to clean up a child’s vomit, or you have to watch your camper fall off her horse three times in a row, or you have to jump in the lake at 6:30 a.m. for a lifeguarding in-service while the rest of camp is still sleeping.

There are always some moments when you just want to give up and you pretty much constantly question why parents let you take care of their children for a week. However, giving up or sitting down and crying isn’t an option when you’ve got 15 campers depending on you to keep it together.

And it is always worth your effort when you get to witness a little girl conquer her fear or learn something new. I’ve taught campers how to make a fire, I’ve helped girls realize that they are brave and strong enough to do an obstacle course 40 feet up in the air, and most importantly, I’ve helped them make some lifelong friends and memories.

Of course, it’s also a ton of fun to be able to spend all summer outdoors doing awesome things like archery and kayaking, but the best part by far is getting to see how much fun the kids had or just how much they don’t want to leave when their parents pick them up.

Camp is only eight weeks out of the year, but the memories and lessons I learned there (as well as those camp songs that always get stuck in my head) last year round.

As I sang at every single closing campfire this summer, “Come with me where the fire burns bright, we can see even better by the fire’s light. And we’ll find more meaning in a campfire’s glow than we’ve ever found in a year or so. On my honor, I will try. There’s a duty to be done and I say aye. There’s a reason to be here for a reason above. My honor is to try and my duty is to love.”

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