Staff Assistants/Counselors in Training for Summer Youth Camps and Vacation Church Schools
By Fr. Michael AndersonOne way of involving older teens in your camping or vacation church school program and developing future adult staff is by having staff assistants. St. Andrew’s Camp in upstate New York refers to them as S.A.s while other camps call the Counselor’s in Training (C.I.T.s).
An S.A./C.I.T. program gives older teens a chance at leadership and an opportunity to give something back to the program that they may have enjoyed when they were younger.
There are some key things to remember, however, if you are going to have such a program.
Make sure they understand their role at camp. A possible job description might be:
- To assist camp staff (adults) in the day to day activities of camp.
- To be an example to campers about proper behavior and attitude duringthe program.
- To understand that above all participant safety is “job one.”
- They can be assigned to a group of participants where they...
- are within visual and vocal contact with their group at all times
- escort campers from activity to activity
- take head counts at the beginning and ending of each activity
- assist whoever is running the activity (go and get needed items, help participants with a project, play the game with them, etc.)
- sit and eat with participants at meal times (this becomes a great time then for staff to have a quick meeting)
- Given their special interests and abilities they can run an activity with adult staff assistance. Often S.A.s have a lot to offer in sports and crafts.
- Under NO circumstance should a S.A. discipline a participant. If there is a difficulty, the S.A. should bring the participant to a staff person, or in the case of a serious situation, the program director, who will provide disciplinary action as is appropriate.
- S.A.s should not be placed in a situation where they are supervising participantsby themselves for a period of time.
Some helpful tips for running a Staff Assistant Program
- Assign two S.A.s to all jobs where they are escorting participants. That way, if someone falls or gets hurt someone can stay with the participant(s) while the other one gets help.
- Give S.A.s time for themselves at some point of the day. At, camps, evenings after campers’ bedtimes are often good times for this. This means, however that adult staff need to be with the campers.
- Part of S.A.s evening time should be structured (Christian Education session, etc.) And part of their time should be free time to just spend time with each other, share stories from the day, etc.
- Either the program director, or the assistant director should be assigned with the task of coordinating and directing the S.A.s. Other than when S.A.s are working directly under adult staff members, no adult staff members should be directing S.A.s. This is the job of the S.A. coordinator (program director or assistant director).
- All S.A.s should agree in writing to all the above conditions before arriving at camp.
- Since an S.A. program is by nature and necessity selective all S.A.s need to go through a selection process which should include the following: name, address, phone number, date of birth; any previous experience working with younger children; 2 references (one by their parish priest and one by a non-relative); the usual health information required of younger participants since they are not legal adults; and an opportunity to select areas of interest in which they would like to be involved at camp.