Part-time and seasonal jobs are harder than ever for teens to get. When the economy is less-than-vigorous, sadly, older and more skilled folks who are out of work take even minimum wage jobs in order to keep their families afloat during job searches. But this also means teens and college-age kids can struggle to find summer work.
Now, a summer with no work can seem fine. After all, there’s lots of pressure on kids during the school year, and a little down time goes a long way. On the other hand, work provides a crucial counterpoint to school and extra curricular activities, so it’s not just something to toss out.
My girls have long been babysitters, even going on the occasional family vacation with someone to take care of kids. But babysitting jobs can be feast and famine, which doesn’t help your teen or college student with planning for extra money. And it sure doesn’t help with building work experience with a more outside business.
That’s one of the reasons I’m so thrilled that both my girls will be counselors at Camp Alleghany this year.
Taking the reins
Chloë, 17, who’s attended Camp Alleghany for the last four years, was so excited to become a Junior Counselor this year. I don’t know that there’s ever been anything she’s wanted more. I can remember her pouring over the application last fall, and agonizing over her answers. She put so much thought and devotion into the fairly extensive application process that when she was accepted it was a day of real joy!
Since then we’ve spent plenty of time discussing what it means to have someone in your care every day while also planning for and balancing the activities you would teach. Talking it through has given her opportunities to reflect on the demanding but rewarding (and skill-building) summer job she’s getting into.
This past year she’s also been a full Junior Member of the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad where we live, in Staunton, Virginia. This has given her some training into unexpected situations and required that she present herself in a more mature way.
I know she’s ready to be a JC! At the same time, I’m glad there’s an on-going Junior Counselor “class” during the summer to guide and support her in this new responsibility.
I’m also thrilled that this opportunity puts her on a path to future summers working at Camp Alleghany. Rather than worrying each year about securing a local job at a burger joint or movie theater, which are nice but not as challenging on the career-building front, she can direct her attention immediately to a summer job with growth potential (there are many different roles of responsibility to apply for at a summer camp, Alleghany especially), and watch herself grow with them over the years.
After this, the world!
My older daughter Anwyn (pronounced Ahn-win), 19, will also be a counselor this year. She only attended Camp Alleghany for one year, her 15 year. After that, she decided to work locally babysitting a younger girl full time! Another summer she was a Junior Chef at a local foodie restaurant, learning to cook up amuse buches and make a “plate presentation!” Recently she’s been an art teacher.
But working with kids and teaching were always her first passion. Now she dreams of being an international au pair for a year, getting the opportunity to explore Europe while still connected to the comforts of a family.
But to get there, it seemed logical that her experience with kids not just be local family babysitting. Though her references are off-the-charts with those families, it’s not quite the same as, again, the all-day, every day demands of camp counseling.
Though counselors of course get breaks, and rotate some responsibilities, it’s a more concentrated summer job, much like you’d find being a nanny to three small kids in a foreign country. For would-be employers, seeing that she’s been in a role like a camp counselor can make all the differences when they’re choosing between two otherwise equally matched candidates. Being a camp counselor will give her the skills and confidence to juggle on-going family responsibilities (while living in shared quarters) with ease!
A breath of fresh air
But it’s not just all the growth and development that I’m excited about for my girls. They’re still growing in so many other ways — socially, in health and vigor, and personally, in their hearts. I’m as happy now as I was at any point in their development that they’ll be outside breathing fresh mountain air, dipping in a flowing natural river, basked in dappled sunshine, and sleeping under the dark sky twinkling with stars.
All of these things feed the heart and soul, and help keep that aggressive modern world with all of its lures and advertisements just a little bit more in check. Time away from that is just as important to an impressionable teen as it is to a young child.
Meantime, though I’ll surely miss them, Mama here won’t exactly mind that the house is clean and quiet for eight weeks, and that I can get some of those nagging projects done that never seem to get done when the house is full of activity.
It’s going to be a great summer for everyone!
–Lindsay Curren, Parent (and daughter of an alum), Camp Alleghany for Girls