When you ask campers at Keshet Teen & Tween Camp what they like most about camp, you hear about swimming, music, art and basketball, but, above all else, you find out about the love they have for the staff. There’s good reason for this. Teen & Tween Camp staff are a special group of people who exhibit the best qualities you could want in camp counselors—patience, great communicators, compassionate, positive, creative, hard-working, selfless and, of course, fun. Their job is different from that of camp counselors at other camps; instead of supervising a group of kids, their job focuses on just one.
Teen & Tween Camp is organized to meet the individual needs of each camper. There is plenty of time spent with groups and doing group activities, but our counselors primarily provide one-on-one support. They are empowered to make changes to the schedule or activities to meet a camper’s needs and interests.
The relationships formed between campers and staff are important. Ben, a longtime camper at Teen & Tween Camp, agrees. He wasn’t sure what to think of this summer because, for the first time in many years, he was being paired with a new counselor, Jeremy. The two only met a few days before camp began. As Jeremy tells it, the thought that this was going to be a long summer went through his mind quite a few times during those first few days of camp. Ben wasn’t interested in doing activities with Jeremy and he wasn’t using his talker device to communicate. All of this was expected, but it’s Jeremy’s response to Ben’s initial reluctance that has changed the trajectory of both of their summers.
Through his actions and words, Jeremy showed Ben that he is looking out for him. He talked to him like he would with any of his friends. Jeremy showed interest in Ben’s interests, including audio books and science. He didn’t give up even when Ben didn’t want to do an activity, but, instead proposed alternatives. What could have taken weeks to build trust between the two of them, only took a couple of days. By the end of the first week of camp, Ben felt comfortable enough to type on his talker to communicate with Jeremy.
Their friendship has continued to grow in these first few weeks of camp. Ben has participated in activities this summer that no one would have expected him to do, and, when the activity just isn’t the right fit, he and Jeremy find a tree to sit under and listen to music and books. Ben’s growth and happiness this summer have been astounding. In past summers, Ben has refused to go anywhere near a pool. Then, just this week and with Jeremy and others by his side, Ben willingly went swimming. Jeremy is finding that he is growing too from a job that can be intense but also really rewarding.
At the end of this week, Teen & Tween Camp is holding its first-ever talent show. When Jeremy asked Ben what talent he was going perform. Ben told him, “rapping.” Jeremy wasn’t sure how that was going to happen until Ben explained that they are a team. Ben will write the rap and Jeremy will perform it.