-written by Camp Director Margot Perlmutter

If you wanted to do research on the benefits of camp for your children there are likely hundreds, possibly thousands of articles to browse. Topics range from what your campers can accomplish daily, how parents themselves can benefit from sending their campers away, how camps can prepare young adults for the “real world” and, of course, a host of other amazing attributes of being in the great outdoors.  So the question now asked is, what topic am I going to discuss here today?  Today my thoughts travel to the often controversial C.I.T. (Counselor-In-Training) summer.  I call it controversial because it seems there is such a vast array of opinions on this transition summer.  Many parents often feel the CIT summer is one where they “pay for their child to work” while others believe it can’t possibly top their senior camper year so why even bother.  Then, of course, there are those that feel this is the ideal summer to do something else like a teen mission or even, heaven forbid, an extra summer course to get ahead for the following year.  Of course, it’s no surprise to any reader that I am greatly in favor of the CIT program, not just because I have seen the benefits first hand as a Camp Director, but mostly because after 20 years at summer camp, I can honestly say that my greatest camper summer and one I still look back on with the fondest of memories was indeed my CIT summer.

What makes this program so unique and amazing?

1) CITs become leaders: Where else in the world can a 16 year old camper become a leader amongst hundreds of campers?  At Tamakwa, it is the CIT group that can truly set the tone for the summer. Their spirit and enthusiasm in the dining hall, at activities, evening programs and assisting on canoe trips is what campers most admire.  It’s true, counselors are leaders as well, but when you see a group of 25-30 CITs all cheering together as one united group, there is something quite impactful.

2) CITs become teachers: Similar to the point above, CITs are given the unique opportunity to teach and mentor younger campers. Yes, they learn to instruct campers of all ages and all different skill levels how to gain activity skills at certain camp activities, but they also teach something even more valuable: how to get along and live with peers. CITs will spend several weeks each summer shadowing a cabin group and working alongside counselors.  They eat, live and help lead a canoe trip with campers and create bonds with younger campers that are cherished for years to come.

3) Controlled Freedom: Not to sound cliché, but the world is a scary place and the freedom to travel around town, walk the streets at night and just be a kid isn’t what it used to be.  I don’t think many parents would allow their child to live at a buddy’s house for an extended period of time without another parent around;  yet,  at camp, they get to do just that!  CITs have the amazing perk of living with their friends without the watchful eye of a counselor.  Sure, they have a CIT Director who mentors, educates and guides them in the right direction, but they don’t have a counselor living with them and telling them what to do on a regular basis. They get to be kids, enjoy camp, hang with their buddies yet also begin the transition of what it means to be a responsible adult potentially caring for other people’s children and gain a tremendous amount of independence and confidence in the process.

4) Harvesting great staff: Most Camp Directors will agree that a staff group can make or break a summer. They set the tone and either inspire, excite and motivate campers or they fall flat and miss the amazing opportunity to bond with campers and potentially impact their lives for the better.  At Tamakwa, we feel the greatest staff group is one where the first-time Tamakwa staff, mingle with the veteran staff members.  It’s always amazing to have new staff members from around the world that bring with them fresh ideas, exciting new perspectives and even some entertaining accents from “down under”, but for a truly successful summer, you also need that solid foundation of Tamakwa spirit and tradition. Our returning staff set the tone and continuously demonstrate the unparallel Tamakwa energy not seen anywhere else.  Yes, this spirit is fostered as campers, yet it is the CIT summer experience and training that help them use that spirit and energy to properly care for campers in a safe, fun and rewarding way!

So yes, it’s true, there are endless opportunities for today’s youth each summer but I can assure you, none of them will be as rewarding, as motivating, as inspiring, as educational, as entertaining or AS FUN as that of a well executed Counselor-In-Training Program!

Click Here to read more about our Tamakwa CIT Program

Click Here for a short blurb about the “Tamakwa career”