Since 2007, Keshet has been laying the groundwork for making camps places for inclusive employment. It started with Avodah at Camp Chi, a vocational program for older teens and young adults. This summer represents a giant leap forward to make inclusive employment a reality. Keshet has introduced three new programs taking place at Camp Chi, Apachi Northside and ‘Z’ Frank Apachi to maximize the opportunities for jobs and job training for adults and teens at camp.
There are four young adults holding jobs at Camp Chi with Keshet support. Through a grant from the Walder Foundation, Keshet is able to provide a job coach, resources and stipends for these employees to work as independently as possible.
Matthew, John, Miles and Ella spoke together to write about their time as camp staff. Their experiences, excitement, challenges and successes are universal for anyone who has worked their first summer at overnight camp.
By Matthew Horowitz, Miles Evans, John Archabal and Ella Perovic
We love working at camp. We have been at Camp Chi for many years. John has been at camp for 8 years and is now an athletics specialist. Miles has spent 14 years at camp and he takes photos and works with the kitchen crew. Matthew loves the arts and works in the art center and does magic. This is his second year at Camp Chi. Ella is new this summer.
We came to camp early for staff training. It was, honestly, amazing. We started by introducing ourselves. We learned about what was appropriate and the right things to do. It was really nice to get to know all of the counselors and get to be one of the staff. It feels nice to know that you are going to get paid for working hard. It’s not just about getting to be paid. Staff get to go out too on days off. It’s cool to get to go to all these places you couldn’t go to as a camper. We love that we are not being treated like campers. We do all the stuff the staff get to do.
It might seem like a little thing, but we love having staff IDs. It shows kids that we are staff.
The kids respect us. When kids want to play basketball, they go to John. They can’t always ask him questions because it can be hard for them to understand him, but he leads sports like basketball, tennis and football. Sometimes the older kids can be hard to work with because they don’t always want to do the activity at the art center.
Our coworkers are great…
They treat me amazing like if I need to go somewhere, they let me do it. They want me to be on time to work, but understand if I am a little late. I feel great that they treat me like one of the staff. (Matthew)
I’m happy they trust me. I have a schedule. Schedules help a lot. Sometimes I go around camp with Max to take photos and sometimes by myself. (Miles)
I feel respected by the other staff. My supervisor is Will and he helps me find jobs at athletics. (John)
It hasn’t all been perfect. You can’t be immature to work at camp. You need to act good. You can be silly, but you need to be adults too. We have made mistakes, but other people are around to help us. At the end, you learn from it and you grow. We have a great job coach and supervisor named Ricky.
Working at camp makes me feel proud…
I got to lead a birthday party for a kid. I can work a crowd. Kids love me because I am young and look like one of them. Ricky was really proud of me too that day. (Matthew)
I get more freedom. I have two important jobs. I go to Walmart on my time off. I like this. (Miles)
I led songs at song session on Shabbat. It was two thumbs up fun. (John)
It’s the best feeling to share what you know with kids. We want people to know that this program helps you do things that you didn’t know you could do. To be honest, I didn’t know that I could do this, but we are doing it. We love working at camp. We are getting paid to do stuff we like to do and that we are good at. That, to us, is amazing. If you believe in yourself, you can do it.