Have you ever come back from a long day at the office and felt exhausted? Maybe your day was full of meetings, projects that never seem to end, and a to-do list that keeps adding items. Hopefully you’re feeling fulfilled by your work, but you’re definitely tired and eager to recover so that you can do it all over again the next day.
Now imagine coming back to your cabin at night, feeling exhausted yet excited at the same time. Your day was full of short, fun conversations, running programs for teens that opened their minds to new ideas, a quick game of basketball, and a to-do list that includes the supplies for an awesome campfire. This is a typical day at the office for a summer camp staff member, a job that changes the world each and every summer.
The second description sounds pretty awesome, right? After six summers serving as a summer camp staff member, camp is a place that changes the world for so many people each and every summer.
I really wasn’t a camp kid growing up. During my summers in Oklahoma City, I went to same day-camp I had been to for years with my small group of friends. It was fun and exciting, but also reserved, predictable, and safe. It wasn’t until I was 14 years old and starting high school in the fall that I finally joined a “real” summer camp – the URJ Greene Family Camp in Bruceville, Texas. And when I say that it changed everything for me, it is not an exaggeration. I spent three incredible summers at the URJ Greene Family Camp; however, I am writing this blog from my office at the URJ Kutz Camp, the camp I have called home for the last six summers as a staff member. Both places excel in creating thriving Reform Jewish communities where staff and participants learn about themselves, Judaism, and the world, and I am so lucky to call both of these places my home.
Sometimes I like to think that because I started going to summer camp so late in my life that I’m relishing in all the experiences I missed out on when I was younger. One truth about summer camp is that there usually comes a time when people “move on” from working at camp. They find a summer internship in their field, want time to travel with family and friends, or graduate from college and need to find a “real world” job. Even though I considered all of those different options over the last few years, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I knew, every summer over the past six years, that I would need to spend my days in a camp community.
Now, I’m one of the fortunate people in the world who have this opportunity. Because of my experiences with URJ Camps and NFTY, I found myself wanting to be a Jewish professional, a career I have loved for the past year and one that also keeps me connected to all of the URJ Camps. So when the opportunity arose for me to spend six weeks of my job at the URJ Kutz Camp this summer, I couldn’t turn it down. It was the memories of people singing around campfires, intense conversations about Judaism and social justice, and the powerful community that made this decision a no-brainer. Being a participant at Jewish summer camp is a truly magical experience; however, that experience is amplified as a staff member who gets to connect with kids and teens and recreate the very experiences that changed my life forever.
So why am I 23 years old and still working at summer camp? It is truly because we are more than in the business of planning activities for a bunch of Jewish kids and teens. We’re providing experiences that will have a lasting impact on their lives and on the entire world.
Evan Traylor, Assistant Director – Program Team