Apr 21, 2021

Local Camp Counselor Develops Leadership Skills on the Job

By Lori Draz and Lane Johnson

Welcome to Teen Scene. Each month our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry, let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s author is 18-year-old Lane Johnson, a freshman at the University of Delaware, studying journalism and public relations. Lane is also a dedicated camper who went on to become an equally dedicated camp counselor. As a camper or a counselor, camp is a great place to develop communication skills. You meet new people, join teams, participate in games and challenges and make new friends, sharing your stories and learning about others. Lane is using those experiences as the building blocks to her new college career. She learned that doing something you love can teach you lessons that will last a lifetime. Here is Lane’s story.

Growing up and going to camp, I always looked up to my counselors. I thought, “Wow, I want to be a counselor someday!” I always wanted to have control of the group, write down the notes and learn how it is behind the scenes. Fast forward a couple of years and my sister got her first job as a camp counselor. You had to be 16 to enroll, so I was too young that year, but I loved listening to her tell me how fun it was. 

Finally, it was time for my interview to become a camp counselor. It was my first interview, and it was nerve-wracking, but it went well. I was happy when I learned that I had what it took to be a worker, even if it was just a simple eight-week summer job. 

My first year, I was assigned to be the counselor for the 5-year-old girls. I thought it would be easy, but a first job teaches you a lot of lessons.  

My first day was fun yet tiring. As I got to know the other counselors, I learned we were all going through the same things. There were three counselors and 15 5-year-olds. We all supported each other, and it was good to know that the other counselors always did their best to come right away if anyone needed help. Getting to know the kids was the most interesting part. You would think that all 5-year-olds are just cute little kids who act the same. The truth is they all had different personalities. While some were crying because they missed their mom, some were eager to start the day. While some always wanted help, others couldn’t wait to show you how they could do everything on their own.  

Over the next eight weeks, I learned a lot of lessons. I learned how to help a child stop crying. I learned to change a little kid. I learned how to serve 15 different kids in the span of two minutes. Each day seemed more like a learning experience than going to work, but it was cool to be a counselor. I found the whole process interesting. I enjoyed everything from my new behind the scenes view, like meetings and grabbing supplies for the group. It was a great summer, and I knew I wanted to come back next year. 

My second year, I worked with younger girls. I expected this summer to be about the same, but it turned out to be even easier than I thought. I knew my way around, and I used my experiences from the last year. This year, we were a group of five counselors and 18 3- and 4-year-olds. Working with this group, I learned that younger kids don’t have such a strong need to be independent; instead, most of them just wanted comfort and companionship.  

One of the most fun times of my life was when I got to be color war captain. It was Blue Aladdin vs. my team, White Lion King. I got to meet other campers from ages 3 to 15 as well as the other counselors.  

I’ve enjoyed many fun times like Fridays when the Pie Man would visit during lunch and throw a pie in one of the counselor’s faces and so many other activities that enhance the camping experience.  

Now I’m beginning my college journey, working toward a career in journalism and public relations, and my experiences as a camp counselor are definitely helpful. At camp, I learned how to communicate with campers much younger than me as well as how to communicate and work with other counselors to solve problems and do the best job possible. Every day as I took down notes and observed everyone’s feelings and behavior, I was developing my skills as a journalist. Getting kids to open up even when they didn’t want to helped me become a good listener. I developed flexible thinking and learned to remain open to new ideas as I found ways to help each kind of behavior in campers. Being able to work and communicate with such different behaviors helped shape my communication skills.

Developing good communication skills is helpful in so many careers, so take some time to engage in conversations and situations with all kinds of people. Some people will be easier to talk to than others, but all will help you learn a lot about yourself and teach you how to more easily share your thoughts with those around you, from friends and family to college professors to employers and more. 

I will be returning as a counselor for the third year this summer, and I can’t wait to make even more memories! I hope your summer plans are full of memories too.