Many people think you would require a qualification of some sort to be able to work at a Special Needs Camp for the summer. Believe me, working at a special needs camp is like earning a qualification in itself.
For the past three summers, I have worked at Wisconsin Badger Camp (two summers as a counselor and one as leadership staff). WBC is a summer camp which provides recreational outdoor experiences for adults and children with intellectual and physical disabilities. Nobody will ever be turned away from WBC, regardless of the severity of their disability. A special needs camp is a place of belonging, where campers feel loved, cared for and accepted for who they are.
From the moment campers leave at the end of their week-long session, they are already eagerly awaiting their return the following summer. For many campers, it is the one week of the year where they leave their parents/caregivers/care home. All staff at special needs camps strive to make this one week, the best week of the campers’ lives.
So you may wonder what a typical day at a summer camp is like, let alone a special needs summer camp where programmes may need to be adapted. Typically the day went somewhat like this:
7:15 am: wake up (or if you are like me in the mornings and require a little encouragement it could be later).
7:45-8:15: Morning meds (you accompany your camper group to the med window)
8:15-9 am: Breakfast
9-9:50: Pictures/Session 1
10-10:50: Session 2
11-11:50: Session 3
12-12:15: Noon Meds
1-2 pm: Noon rest
2-2:50pm: Session 4
3-3:50pm: Session 5
4-4:50pm: Session 6
5-5:15: Dinner meds
5:15-6 pm: Dinner
6:30-8 pm: Evening activity
8 pm: Evening meds
9 pm: Lights out
This was the structure for my camp, however, all camps will differ in terms of a typical daily routine. Daily activities included arts and crafts, swimming, nature, recreation, music, camping excursions, hiking, water carnival, ice-cream social and talent shows. Evening activities consisted of director’s night, counselor’s night, Badger Olympics and Badger Ball. Depending on the day, the weather and your camper group, activities might not always go to plan, so it’s important for counselors to be flexible and creative in these situations.
As a counselor for two years, it was incredible to work with such a diverse range of campers with varying levels of ability, behaviours and needs on a weekly basis. My campers were as young as 10 and as old as 90. It was so interesting to get to know each camper individually and always accommodate them. At the beginning of the summer, the prospect of personal care frightened me a lot as I wasn’t used to it. However, after three years of getting used to toileting, showering and feeding at camp, personal care is now amongst my strongest points.
Camp will really help your overall mindset to change and you really begin to see the world and everyone around you differently. Something that is also amazing about camp is the amount of support that is available. Whether you are struggling with your campers, are feeling homesick or just need a chat, there is always someone who you can talk to. Everyone is in the same boat at camp and all staff will become your 2nd family.
For my third summer at camp, I was part of the leadership staff team as Camper Coordinator. Instead of being responsible for a group of campers, I was in charge of all counselors and their campers. I helped to assist them with personal care and behaviour management, as well as being an overall support model.
If I had to describe a special needs summer camp in three words they would be: rewarding, life-changing and happiness. The bonds you form not only with the staff but also with your campers are like no other. At the end of a session, every counselor is holding back the tears saying goodbye to their camper groups. These reasons are why I recommend new counselors to work at a Special Needs Camp.
Whether you love it or hate it, everyone is in the same area for three months and all staff will become your family. I am lucky to say that many of my closest friends are the ones I have made at camp over my three summers. Anyone considering to work at a Special Needs Camp, I could not recommend it enough. You will gain so much experience, form unforgettable bonds and have the best summer(s) of your life – Long Live Adventure!
If you’re ready to make a difference next summer, apply here to start your application.
You get 30 days of travel after America and the freedom to go where ever you, but you have one problem. How are you going to get around? With 52 States and a lot of miles in between, getting from a to b can present a few challenges. Worry not as there are plenty of travel options that can help get take you from camp to wherever you want to be! Moreover, there are also great travel packages from our amazing partners over at Contiki and TrekAmerica. They can sort out your travelling needs as well as your accommodation. Score!
You might already be familiar with Megabus, particularly if you are a seasoned traveller. With low-cost bus tickets to over 100 cities, it’s worth checking to see if Megabus can get you where you need. Either way, a quick look at the tickets could enlighten you to explore somewhere new for a low-cost price! Some tickets can start as low as $1! In all, the best way to travel around America is sometimes the cheapest and with Megabus, you get just that.
It’s worth checking whether the city you are in has a metro system. Similar to the tube, the metro can get you around the city very quickly which is often the best way to get around America! New York City is well known for its Subway and there are a handful of other cities that also have similar transportation systems. There are also handy apps as well as Google Maps that can guide you on which line to get for when you are navigating yourself around.
With low fares and a selection of direct routes, Greyhound can help you with your travel around America. There are hundreds of direct routes meaning you get exactly where you need to go. A bus ride across America will take a fair few hours but with free Wi-Fi and individual power outlets on every bus, a few Netflix episodes will help pass the time! Be inspired to explore more places and save money while you do it!
At Summer Camp, you’re bound to make friends for life. Some of these friends will even have cars! It’s worth checking to see if they are travelling after camp and whether you can hitch a ride with them. A road trip with friends is one of the best ways to explore America. If you need more info on planning a summer camp road trip, we have a handy blog post to help you out.
We are lucky to be partnered with great travel brands that can help you explore more. In addition, they can help with how to travel America while making more of your budget. TrekAmerica offers more than 50 unique trips. With a pre-planned trip, you’ll be with an experienced tour guide who can show you the best of what America has to offer. Also, with TrekAmerica your travel and accommodation are included, rolling your trip into one convenient package! Find out more about travelling with TrekAmerica here.
Another great brand we have partnered with is Contiki. Each trip is packed full of must-do experiences as well as your transport being covered door to door. An expert Trip Manager guides your trip from start to finish, allowing you to explore the best America has to offer. With the option to include add-ons with your trip, it’s your travel your way. Make the most of America’s National parks or perhaps see the Golden Gate Bridge. With Contiki, there’s so much to explore. Find out more here.
It’s your first 4th of July in America and every American’s favourite day. It’s time to celebrate the land of the free and the home of the brave and boy are you in for a treat. Red, white and blue are everywhere and you feel like you are in a fresh tube of Colgate toothpaste. You never thought you’d feel so patriotic for a country you’re not from but here you are belting out the National Anthem like you didn’t just learn the words two weeks ago.
There is none stop chanting of “USA, USA, USA!”. Everyone is in red, white and blue. There are stars and stripes literately everywhere. You didn’t realise how patriotic everyone is until today. Everyone is running around waving flags and singing Katy Perry. Independence Day isn’t just a film about aliens? What?! You thought that the bonfire firework display at your local park was a show. Think again. This display is something to rival Londons New Years Eve show. Who knew independence meant bottomless chicken wings? Sign us up!
There is food EVERYWHERE. You’ve gotten accustomed to the food at camp by now including the mad portion sizes. However, you were not prepared for today! You never knew it was possible to arrange burgers and hotdogs into an American flag display but here we are. There are snacks on snacks on snacks and you are ready. The food coma is coming and you welcome it in waves.
There is a lake with your name on it and you have the fear, bad. You’ve been hiding out all day trying to avoid getting thrown into the lake but tradition is tradition. The feeling of knowing that it is coming is the worst and you’re contemplating just throwing yourself in.
You might not be American but today you are an honorary citizen. Everyone else’s buzz for the country has got you swept up in the celebrations and your singing Star Bangled Banner with the rest of them. Today, this land is your land and today this land is my land. Go America!
All your campers have got you absolutely fizzing with excitement. There are fun, games and food everywhere. The only holiday you have to compare is Christmas and this is the Christmas of summer. You’re ready to fly the flag and fly the flag HARD. Why can’t every day be the 4th of July?
It’s been a long old day and you are ready for bed. The whole day has been non-stop and although it’s been enjoyable you are worn out. Who knew Independence was so exhausting?! It’s time to kick your feet up, make a cup of tea and go back to business as usual tomorrow. You’re retiring the red, white and blue for Color War. Until next time Independence Day!
There are 52 states in America, spanning 3.8 square miles. Each state has its own individual charm as well as being packed full of a multitude of different Cities, Towns and new experiences. Deciding where you are going to go and what to see after camp can get overwhelming. For example, planning your travel after camp can end up leaving you with option overload.
We have recently partnered up with Contiki to bring you a selection of amazing trips and tours all across America. Take the pressure off and spend your summer enjoying your travels. Make every moment count and experience your dream trip your way. For instance, Contiki allows you to add exciting options into your trip in addition to your included experiences. With an expert Trip Manager leading your way, you’re in safe hands. Here’s why you should travel with Contiki after camp!
When you have selected your amazing trip all you now need to do is pay and go. Yes, it’s that simple! All your travel for the trip, accommodation and experiences are rolled into one great package. Dependent on your trip, you’ll even find some of your meals included too. Exploring America and sourcing your own travel and accommodation can become quite costly. In addition, researching exactly where you want to go and booking onto these experiences can make the pennies stack up pretty quickly. Trying to get all this sorted while at camp can leave you with booking exhaustion. A reason why you should book with Contiki is that this is all sorted for you. What more could you need?
Much like Camp, a trip with Contiki will see you making friends for life. You might find yourself left with nobody wanting to go where you would like to travel after camp. Similarly, there might only be two of you who want to travel to a certain place. With Contiki, you’ll have the safety and the comradery of being part of a group. Furthermore, the age of Contiki travellers ranges from 18 to 35 meaning you’ll be surrounded by people your own age. As well as the average age of Contiki travellers being 26, 55% are solo travellers. So, don’t be worried if you’re heading out on your own!
Prepare for your Bucket List to be looking pretty empty after a Contiki Trip! All of the must-see and do places will be included in your itinerary as well as some unique hidden spots. With tours including hot-spot locations such as Yosemite National Park and Route 66, you’ll have the opportunity to see Americas best locations. Your experience, your way. From LA to Canada, wherever you go after camp is up to you. Contiki is perfect for making the most out of your travel.
If you’re looking to explore more this summer, check out the amazing trips offered by Contiki! Save 10% on all full-price trips* and make the most of your travels!
*Applicable on trips 7 days or more. Discounts apply to the land portion of your trip price only. Combinable with loyalty discount only. Discounts are subject to change. £60 deposit, freedom guarantee, hold tours on option for up to 7 days, balance due to Contiki 45 days before departure.
Great news, a camp has put you on review and now wants to interview you! Your profile is all up to scratch but now you need to get ready your summer camp Skype interview. Like any other interview, camp wants to get to know you a little better and see if you’d be a great fit at there camp. Similar to your NST interview, it’s not as formal as a traditional interview. Camp wants to see your personality and your capability of being part of the team at camp.
Find out how to nail your Summer Camp Skype interview with these top tips!
Make sure to finalise your profile and make sure everything reads perfectly! When camps are getting ready for your summer camp Skype interview they’ll use your profile to direct questions. Check to see if there any spelling mistakes or errors ready for your interview.
This is a video interview which means that your interviewer can see you as well as your surroundings. Make sure you’ve scheduled a time to sit down in a quiet space with no distractions. Keep your background minimal and free from any busy clutter. Ideally, sit at a desk with your laptop, phone or tablet in a fixed position. No selfie positions here, please!
A number one bugbear of directors when interviewing potential counselors is technical difficulties! When getting ready for your interview, make sure your Skype is fully functional. This means making sure your wifi is connected, your mic is working, the sound is on and your camera is good to go. They’re small things to check but they can make or break your interview, so make sure all your technical checks are done!
This isn’t a corporate role so there’s no need to dress in your best. However, you don’t want to rock up in your pyjamas. Keep it smart casual in a simple shirt or smart top. You may have heard of others conducting Skype interviews and meeting with a shirt on top but pyjamas on the bottom. Yes, they may not be able to see what you’re wearing on the bottom but if you do need to stand up for whatever reason they’ll be able to see your PJ bottoms. Don’t risk it and make sure your outfit is cohesive head to toe!
You may have been asked to add the director on Skype or even Facetime. Avoid any technical errors and make sure you’ve done this well in advance. Also, make sure you know your Skype name (in addition, check that is an appropriate name!), this usually looks something like this “live:xxxxxx”.
There’s nothing worse than being asked “so, what do you know about us?” and coming up blank. Have a look at the camp’s website as well as their social media to get a vibe for what they do and what they’re all about. The more you know about them, the more impressed they will be! Similarly, you’ll want to prepare questions to ask them as well. It’s important to make sure that camp is a fit for you as well as you being a great fit for them!
While completing your interview remember to keep cool! Understandably, you’ll be nervous about your interview but try not to let this affect your interview. Don’t speak too fast and rush through your interview because the camp may struggle to hear you clearly. Slow things down and take your time. If the camp keeps repeatedly asking you to repeat yourself, this may be a sign you’re speaking too quickly for them to understand. Remember, you are most likely going to be interviewed by an American and they may struggle to understand your accent. Additionally, any regional slang may be difficult for them to decipher.
Be confident and ready to talk about yourself! This interview is about YOU and why you should be hired. Remember to read through your profile and emphasise your skills. Be passionate about what you do and this will show camp why you are the best person for the job. On top of all this, remember to SMILE! Camp is all about having fun and bringing joy to the lives of your campers which means smiles all around. Be friendly and excited for your summer of a lifetime and how you can make a difference this summer.
Camps will often check your social media accounts before your summer camp Skype interview. Are your accounts appropriate? Make sure there are no inappropriate images such as ones with alcohol, rude gestures etc. Keep an eye on your posts as well. People have been rejected in the past purely down to their social media accounts. If you’re unsure, make them private!
Remember to thank your interviewer for their time. Manners go a long way and a small thank you at the end is their last impression of you. First impressions count of course but so do your last!
Working out how to travel on a budget after camp can be quite the task. After camp, you want your earnings to stretch as far as possible. Budgeting your money doesn’t mean you have to skimp on your travel experience. Read on to discover more on how to travel on a budget!
Travelling as a group is not for everyone. However, avoiding going solo means that there are more people to spread the cost. Figuring out how to budget while you travel can be a lot easier with a group’s combined brainpower! Perhaps someone knows a great deal or a cheap place to stay. You might even get money off as part of a group discount when booking accommodation or tours. As well as activities and places to stay, if you decide to go down the Airbnb route, cooking as a group will save you money on eating out. A little compromise when travelling with friends goes a long way which could save you hundreds of dollars in the long run. Be flexible with your travel group and your travel budget is bound to go further!
While there is a lot of international staff at camp there are also a whole heap of American staff! You’ll be making friends left right and centre. While it can be comforting to make friends from home don’t neglect the opportunity to expand your friendship group beyond your own shores. Who best to show you the hidden hot spots than someone who is from that place? In addition, you could even be offered to stay at their home. There’s not much better for your budget than FREE!
Before and during camp, keep an eye out for any travel deals you can cash in on. We offer discounts on amazing travel packages with Contiki and TrekAmerica. If you’re a student, you may want to see if you can bag student discount on your travel or accommodation too. Alongside this, any food vouchers you pick up on the way will also be useful! If you plan on visiting any theme parks, make sure to check online to see if a combined ticket will save you money. You might also get a great deal to enter more than one theme park!
Save money on both your longer and shorter journeys by utilising public transport. Flights and trains can eat up a lot of your budget and you’d be surprised how much money you can save by getting the bus or using the metro. In addition, Uber’s will VERY quickly add up and leave a burning hole in your pocket. In some cities, you may also be able to get a group travel ticket on some modes of transport which will save you additional spends.
Hotels can very often be the biggest expense of your trip. Yes, some sites can give you the best deals on hotels but have you thought of alternative accommodation? The word ‘hostels’ can bring up thoughts of dark, dingy and dirty spaces but you’d be very surprised at how they have changed. Do your research and check out hostels in the locations you will be staying. The majority of hostels we have come across while on our travels after camp has been modern spaces with a surprising amount of privacy. If you’re staying in a larger group you can also book out a whole dorm in most hostels meaning it would be just you and your friends. Hostelworld is a great database of hostels all across the world with user reviews! If hostels are 100% not your thing, check out Airbnb. Often cheaper than a hotel and you can choose whether to rent out the whole space or just a room. Your host may even be able to suggest some great places to visit while you are passing by.
Each year, USA Summer Camp holds a photo competition searching for that perfect photo that represents how amazing summer in America really is. Whether it’s images from travel or camp, we get hundreds of photos rolling in with spectacular scenery photographs of the Grand Canyon to 1000000 images capturing the beautiful camp sunsets. Trust us, after seeing all the pictures of our applicants having the time of their lives, it made every person in the office this summer get extreme Summer Camp FOMO. It was HORRIBLE, but we fought on and after some hard consideration, we picked our favourite photographs and the winners!
In 3rd place – Molly Nelson!
In 2nd place – Bethan Mccormick!
And finally… The winner of the 2019 Photo Competition – Mary Mccarthy!
We want to say thank you to everyone who took part and entered their photos. Each image was amazing and reminded us how fun, impactful and important Summer Camp is. That’s why we do what we do. USA Summer Camp can’t wait to send even more people to camp in the upcoming years!
Interested in heading out to camp yourself next summer?Apply here now!