The Value of our Staff-In-Training Summer

Written by: Jess Glass, Gabi Weiss, Ellis Meyer, Juliana Withee

We weren’t sure what to expect coming into our Staff-In-Training (SIT) summer after our camper years and the Israel Leadership Summer program. Would we have real responsibilities? Would our campers like us? Will we still have the same amount of fun we’ve had in our past years at camp? The answer is yes, yes, and even more fun. Coming back for our SIT summer was the best decision we’ve ever made.

SIT year was a phenomenal experience—it was truly life-changing. We had so many opportunities to bond with each other as well as campers and staff, and we lead activities that utilized our critical and creative thinking skills. Truth be told, more than we ever expected. The transition from camper to ILS to SIT might seem intimidating, but the SIT program was a perfect capstone to our past few years’ camp journey. We have all had counselors who significantly impacted us when we were campers, and to have the opportunity this summer to be that person for our campers was incredible.

As an SIT, we had the opportunity to see through two lenses: one as a staff member and the other as a camper. We were able to find time to experience the things that have always kept us coming back to camp, but in a totally new way, making it all so exciting and unique to our SIT summer. In many ways, we were able to do much of the same work as counselors do, like engaging with campers, keeping track of them, and making sure everyone is having fun. We also had responsibilities like specialists do from helping co-staff run activities to occasionally running activities by yourself (with help!), and depending on the specialty area and your schedule, getting access to specific training and skills-based learning in specialty areas! The most meaningful part of it all, though, was building meaningful relationships with our campers. The relationship between campers and SITs is so special. You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s true, SITs are like the “fun aunts and uncles” of camp. You have responsibilities and you’re a leader in the cabin, but you don’t have the responsibility of handling some difficult situations like a staff member does. Campers adore their SITs, and it’s so special to create such strong bonds with campers for the first time. Something we all learned this summer was that opportunities are there for us to seize, and the more we gave, the more we got out of the experience.

Every day, SITs have a leadership hour as a group (called SIT hour) to plan programs, learn about camper care and behavior management, participate in camp-based discussions, play games, and practice skills and strategies that helped us to be more successful SITs. Throughout the day, we also get time off for ourselves where we chose what we wanted to do—hang out with our fellow SITs, exercise, nap, shower, or spend time with our campers—it was up to us!

Now, especially in 2020, you might be thinking: That sounds fine and all, but why would I want to be an SIT as a rising 12 grader? The answer is, the new SIT program is special and we can assure you that the professional skills and experience you gain (not to mention the 300 community service hours!) will set you up for future success and stand out on your college applications. You are now older than SITs in the past were, making you much more prepared to handle the stresses and complications that SIT year, and eventually staff, will throw at you. If we had skipped this past summer and decided to come back to be on staff, we would be lost. SIT year taught us so much about what it means to be on staff and gave us space and time to feel prepared and ready to transition into a staff role with confidence and real skills.

Additionally, in 2020, we will have completed the SIT program and will be first-year staff. We will be there to help you through the SIT program as it grows and evolves to suit your year. Being an SIT will undeniably shape what you will get out of being staff; we are confident it has prepared us, tempered us, and made us more ready than the vast majority of applicants to face the challenges that being on staff, or having any job for that matter, will present us with.

This year gave us a whole new perspective of camp, and of life. We got a taste of the staff experience and professional life while also forming memorable relationships with campers for the first time who looked up to us, which allowed us to see the impact we can have on the next generation of campers. We walked away from this summer feeling more confident in our ability to lead, collaborate with peers and people older than us, be responsible for others, take initiative on projects, and understand what it takes to make a positive impact on a larger community. We are so thankful for this incredible summer and everything camp has done to support us in learning and growing from our start as campers up until today. If you are considering skipping SIT year, please consider the contrary. You will not regret it. All in all, SIT summer was rewarding, challenging, fun, unique, and absolutely 100% worth it. This summer was unforgettable for us, and we hope what we have shared has helped you consider how incredible SIT year can be for you.