I have many years of experience working at the Manassas Park Community Center, and my time spent working as an Athletics Camp Counselor are the experiences I most cherish. When I look back at that time, it is hard to tell which aspect of being a counselor I liked most. Whether it was preparing for camp, anticipating the first day, or building relationships with the kids, I always managed to enjoy myself.
You may be wondering how the staff at the Community Center prepares for all the summer camps that are held at the Community Center throughout the summer months.
First, there is a weeklong mandatory staff training that each staff/camp counselor MUST attend. These trainings provide us with all the tools we need to be successful camp counselors. These sessions include safety, stress management, positive discipline, and emergency action plans. During training, I build healthy relationships with my coworkers. After training, we plan our weekly schedule of activities for the upcoming weeks of camp. Having completed all the necessary staff training, I can honestly say I was ready for the campers!
On the first day of camp, the children arrive at 8:30 am and we would greet them and their parents. I believe at this time it is very important to begin building relationships with parents because the parents you see during the first week will likely be returning to camp for several of the following weeks.
After we checked-in all the summer campers, we prepare for breakfast. I used this time to introduce and review the rules and expectations with the children. After breakfast, we continued through the morning with icebreakers and team building exercises until lunchtime, which is at noon. After lunch, we started our group activities, where the children start to become more comfortable as we encourage them to build friendships. We establish our routines early. This helps keep things consistent, and the summer flies by quickly!
The kids we work with are terrific, but I have found that the relationships I have formed over the years are what I enjoyed most about my job as a summer camp counselor. You may think that over time the children will forget what happened during the summers we were together every day at camp; however, I find that the kids (and their parents) often still remember the camp counselor who went that extra mile.
The everyday interactions with the summer camp kids are just some of the many things that truly makes our Center unique. The children in the community learn life lessons and skills that stick with them for years to come. This is one of my favorite aspects of my job.
As the Community Center staff prepares for another summer camp season, I am flooded with so many memories. When asked which my favorite memories are, I truly say that I cannot answer that question with just a one-word answer.
It is the joy of watching the kids mature and knowing that I helped in that process. I also love to see the kids who build friendships in my summer camp session and are still friends today.
Remember, above all else, have fun, step outside of your comfort zone, and go that extra mile. As John C. Maxwell once said, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” You will see a great team of dedicated professionals at the Manassas Park Community Center summer camps! I am proud to say that I was and still am one of them, and I cannot wait for summer camps to begin!
Heather Henry is the Athletic Assistant for the City of Manassas Park, Department of Parks and Recreation. She can be reached at 703-335-8872 or via email at H.Henry@ManassasParkVA.gov.