By Brooke Riggio, Summer Staff Liaison & Program Coordinator
Picture this: it’s yet another uncomfortably warm July day, you are sitting in the back seat of your parents’ 2007 heather grey Chevy Suburban with butterflies in your stomach (and you’re not quite sure if those butterflies are from your apprehensive excitement for your first summer at camp or the increasingly winding highway called Porter Creek Road). It’s 2010, you’re 9 years old, and there’s a bunk with your name on it, and 3 very excited staff members awaiting your arrival to Camp Newman.
That was me almost 11 summers ago. Now, 11 summers later, and I’m working on the other side of that special staff-camper relationship and experiencing camp for the first time as Staff Liaison and Program Coordinator this summer.
From Ropes Course Specialists to Department Heads (formerly known as Rashim), each one of these people played an integral role in cultivating more than just my Jewish identity growing up; they helped build me up to be the confident, independent, creative, open-minded, and compassionate person I am today.
Being a staff member at sleepaway camp (especially Camp Newman, but hey, I’m a little biased!) is one of the most uniquely powerful and genuinely fun jobs in the world.
During my time as a General Counselor in Summers 2018 and 2019, and then working as a CIT Advisor virtually in Summer 2020, I worked with all ages, from 3rd and 4th graders all the way up to 10th graders, each age group taught me more about myself, how to laugh until my stomach hurts, and what it means to have the most pure form of joy out there. Because working at sleepaway camp is not your typical 9 to 5 job, staff members are able to acquire a completely one-of-a-kind and diverse skill set that helps them in other aspects of their personal and professional life. As a staff member, you become a detail-oriented problem solver who can accomplish the impossible in a fast paced environment. You have the chance to develop and improve your public speaking and conflict-resolution skills all while being dressed in the silliest outfit imaginable. You learn about the importance of relationship building, and the essential skill of flexibility in everyday life and the workplace. Living with your coworkers and supervisors for 2 months fosters opportunities to learn from your mistakes in a uniquely supportive and growth-oriented environment.
Working at sleepaway camp not only allows you to build your own tool belt for success, it also allows you to become a role model for an incredible set of kids and teens for years to come. To this day, I still talk with my counselors and past Rashim about everything from classes at school to asking advice about a variety of topics, and my past campers still reach out to me about these same things. When you work at camp, you acquire the most supportive and kind community who you know you can always count on.
A job at camp is what you decide you want to make of it. You are in the driver’s seat of your own experience, and you have the power to learn and develop a priceless set of skills that you wouldn’t get from anywhere else.
Thinking back to my experience at Camp Newman almost 11 years ago, I don’t remember much about my first summer, but I do remember the staff. It was their kindness, compassion, and pure love of the camp community that forever changed my life. They were true leaders, and people who I looked up to for years after. I encourage everyone who’s even considering working at sleepaway camp to take a leap of faith and jump into what could be the most life changing job you’ll ever have.
So, if you’re ready to develop these skills and more in probably one of the most fun and unconventional workplaces you’ll ever be in, come join me this summer up on 4088 Porter Creek Road and apply for a job at Camp Newman!
Also, be sure to follow @campnewman_staff for more information and reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, concerns, or comments regarding available summer positions or the staff experience in general.
I hope to see YOU this summer!
Brooke is a Junior at Tulane University studying Political Economy and Communication. At Tulane, she is involved in the University Student Government’s Sustainability Committee, she is a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee in her sorority, and works as a Desk Services Coordinator in one of the residence halls. In her free time, she is a 7th grade teacher at Temple Sinai New Orleans and can be found walking around Audubon Park or cooking a new recipe with her roommate in her kitchen!
This summer, she will work with our counselors in a new Geza role as Staff Liaison and Program Coordinator. She can’t wait to be a part of another amazing summer at Camp Newman!