During the summer of 2013, I had the pleasure of taking on the role of Assistant Head of Senior Camp at Alleghany. As well as helping the Head of Senior Camp, Kathryn Baker, the Assistant Head is responsible for the delivery of the Upstart program. All the fifteen- and sixteen-year-old campers take part in this program.
In addition to being a whole lot of fun, the Upstart Program is designed to equip the girls with valuable leadership skills that will help them as they take on more responsibility around camp. This provides them with transferable skills that will be of great use to them as they fill in their college applications, apply for jobs, or (hopefully!) return as Junior Counselors.
All in a day’s work (and play)
The Upstarts have plenty of opportunities to take on responsibilities around camp. Here are a few examples of the things they do:
- Care for campers when their counselor is absent by being present in their tent, providing emotional and pastoral support, and following an established chain of responsibility to ensure their welfare.
- Assist counselors in leading classes and supervising campers as part of Shadow-a-Counselor Day. On this day, the sixteen-year-olds are teamed up with a current counselor and participate fully in their activities and with their tent. As well as watching and learning, the Upstarts get the experience of running classes (with support of course!), taking initiative, and being creative.
- Wait tables at meal times, arriving early to set up for meals, and helping to clear the dining hall, and assisting the kitchen staff. We call this Hopping. This is an additional responsibility that is not required of Upstarts, but invaluable experience for anyone hoping to work in the service industry. It’s also an opportune time for the girls to bond as a group, away from tent row — and it’s great fun!
- Work as part of a team to run Assembly on Wednesday mornings and to plan special events for the whole of camp. The Upstarts have key roles in Babies’ Boats and Candlelight Campfire, have their own Vespers and booths at Carnival, and the Sixteens even have their own evening activity. In organizing these activities the Upstarts improve their teamwork and planning skills, and they get to make their mark on camp.
As you can see, life is pretty busy for an Upstart!
Up with Upstarts
But with each event they participate in and every hour they spend with campers, Upstart girls are making memories that will last them a lifetime while building up their skill sets in the most fun way possible.
The supervising staff also makes sure Upstarts feel supported — that’s why we have an Assistant Head, or, as the job is more often called, “Upstart Mom.”
The Upstart Mom has class each day with the sixteen-year-olds, and every other day with the fifteen-year-olds. This year I continued to develop the great work done by previous Upstart Moms Taylor Fellows and Ellen George by focusing on designing activities based on the acquisition of twelve important leadership skills, which are:
- Problem solving.
Each class incorporated at least one of these skills, and the Upstarts were asked to identify which ones we had touched on at the end of the session.
Learning through doing
But it wasn’t all about the soul-searching development of budding maturity! We also just went creeking, debated the cultural position of Taylor Swift, played Alaskan Baseball, wrote songs, heard from a multitude of guest speakers, and generally had a great time, all the while improving our skills in each area. The classes are highly rewarding for everyone involved, and imbue the girls with experiences they can utilize in whatever they choose to pursue academically or professionally in the future.
In part two of this series, I’ll tell you about some of the awesome traditions the Upstarts* have created and participated in, and about the fun events and excursions they get to enjoy…
–Georgie O’Toole, Assistant Head of Senior Camp/Upstart Mom, Camp Alleghany for Girls