When Teens 'Graduate' Camp


Your young teen can learn responsibility and professionalism (and have a little fun in the process) by becoming a Counselor in Training.

counselors in training at Camp Mohawk

Teenage campers who have aged out of camp programs but are too young for employment as counselors face a unique challenge: How can they continue to spend their summers enjoying all of the fun that camp has to offer, while still doing something worthwhile? It's a problem most of us parents wish we had, no doubt - but, while the carefree days of responsibility-free youth are past us, our kids should certainly take advantage of any opportunity that lets them learn AND spend their time outdoors.

Well-developed Counselor-In-Training (CIT) programs offer the perfect answer to the teenage question of "What should I do this summer?" The structure of a CIT program affords teenagers a transitional step between camper and future employee. CIT programs provide strong preparation for early work experiences, whether participants strive to work as counselors or in another capacity long-term.

While the Leadership Training Program has been around for decades at Mohawk Day Camp in White Plains, NY, it was revamped two years ago. CITs there benefit from job preparation skills, ranging from interviewing to positive contribution to team goals; there is a curriculum, a separate orientation, and structured feedback.

Like most established CIT programs, Mohawk's (which includes 14-year-old Counselor Assistants and 15-year-old Counselors in Training) affords teens the opportunity to rotate among different specialty areas to learn and gain experience in a variety of settings. One day a CIT may be assisting the head specialist
in the woodshop, and the next helping out with arts and crafts endeavors. CITs typically receive constructive performance feedback in a supportive environment, which helps build confidence and self-esteem through an interactive evaluation process. They also learn about preparing job applications and being in interview situations.

Team-building is perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of CIT participation, fostering trust and problem-solving skills in fun ways. Regular group meetings and support from mature leadership staff also provide powerful development opportunities for the teens. And likely to top the list of your kid's favorite aspects of being a CIT is that it's a highly social way to spend the summer. Mohawk, for instance, schedules special outings specifically for the CITs.

With more than 20 years experience under my belt at Mohawk Day Camp, I have witnessed firsthand the wonderful bond that CITs form as they work and play side by side; they emerge from their summer experiences with new skills, a positive work ethic, close friends, and memories to last a lifetime.


Ken Schainman is the director of Mohawk Day Camp, situated on 40 acres of scenic land in White Plains. The camp includes eight heated pools, an on-site farm, and field and craft areas. For more info on their leadership training opportunities or regular camp programming, visit www.campmohawk.com.


Also see: A Parent's Guide to Summer in the NYC Area