Camp Edmo: Counselor-In-Training (CIT) Program
We’re received inquiries from many parents asking about summer options for kids “too old” for summer camp – often junior high or high school kids. There are many camp options for older kids, including more in-depth specialty camps, academic programs and study skill camps. However, there are also options for kids who would like to get a jump start on job training, such as babysitting camp or counselor-in-training programs. I recently spoke with Eva Vander Giessen at Camp Edmo to get more information on CIT programs and the Camp Edmo program specifically.
What is a counselor-in-training (CIT)?
A counselor-in-training (CIT) is a junior or high school aged member of our camp staff, that comes to assist the camp counselors with the campers. The CITs must apply for the position, and they receive training before the camp begins. In exchange for helping our counselors, they attend camp for free. Over the period of the camp, they learn to be leaders and how to create the magic of camp.
How does a CIT program benefit a summer camp?
CIT programs offer a number of benefits to camps and the campers that attend. Here are some of the benefits that we have found from our program.
- The CITs provide the campers with role models that are immediately accessible. Since the CITs are younger than the counselors, campers can relate to the CITs and may more quickly emulate the CITs.
- The CITs provide a playful, youthful exuberance to the camp.
- The CIT program allows us to keep our staff:camper ratio really, really low. We can make sure that every camper gets individual attention.
What are the benefits to the teen-agers that join the CIT program?
The CIT program really provides an sneak preview into the work world. The CIT must go through a formal application process and put together a resume. It gives kids the experience of going through the job process. In addition, getting to become a leader can be a very rewarding and empowering experience for a teen-ager. At the end of the summer, Camp Edmo CITs are welcome to use Camp Edmo as a reference for other jobs.
It’s a nice way for kids to be engaged in a program when feel that they are “too old” for camp, but they are too young to be left unsupervised. Often CITs attend camp with their younger sibling, so it’s also a way for kids of different ages to get to be together during the summer, yet have an age appropriate experience.
Lastly, it is amazing to watch the kids go through the CIT program. It really brings out a whole new side to them – a professional side, that you often didn’t realize was there. There is often a gap between when someone is perceived as a kid and when they are perceived as a leader. This program really helps to dissolve that gap.
Do you have to be a former camper to be a CIT?
No! In fact, only 25% of our CITs are former Camp Edmo campers. However, many more do have a sibling at camp. We recruit for our CIT program through various means, including Craig’s List, reaching out to local schools and asking schools for recommendations. We encourage any interested teen-ager to apply. This year, we are particularly seeking bi-lingual applicants.
What training do CITs receive?
CITs come in for training before camp starts. We hold one training the Friday before camp starts, and then we hold on-going sessions throughout the summer. During the training, they learn about camp culture, our camp songs, and they go through ice-breakers to get to know each other. They are trained in supporting instructors in teaching the curriculum, hands on education techniques and inquiry based learning. They learn not to just tell the camper the answer, but to ask the questions that will help the camper discover the answer.
In addition, the CITs get a lot of training through the camp period. At the beginning and the end of each day, the CITs check-in with their counselors. The counselors set their intentions for the day in the morning and then have a de-brief each night. All of our staff goes through skill training, and we apply the same process to the CITs. The CITs get specific feedback throughout the week on strengths and areas for improvement.