Training for leadership

Practice: Glenelg Country School gives young campers a taste of counseling during three-week training sessions at its summer day camp.

August 11, 2004|By Tawanda W. Johnson | Tawanda W. Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It takes more than a cheery disposition to be a good camp counselor.

Just ask Joey Tangires, 14, and Samantha Hines, 13, both of whom participated in Glenelg Country School's Counselor-in-Training Program last month.

"You have to be able to improvise if your plans change," said Joey, who will enter the ninth grade at Glenelg Country next month.

Added Samantha, who will begin eighth grade this month at Folly Quarter Middle School: "It's important not to yell when you have to discipline someone because they might get embarrassed. They'll show you more respect if you bring them aside and talk to them."

The pupils learned those lessons during three-week camps held for two sessions this summer at Glenelg. During each session, 15 counselors-in-training entering eighth through 12th grade met from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays. The cost was $175 per pupil per session. Through classroom instruction and hands-on experience, the campers learned first-aid techniques and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, as well other skills necessary to become full-fledged camp counselors, according to the camp's description on the school's Web site.

The campers began their days with "missions" such as finding qualities that make a good camp counselor, sharing positive points about a particular day, discovering creative ways to entertain younger campers and finding ways to control inappropriate behavior.

The CITs were supervised in five groups headed by adult team leaders and college-age head counselors. Each group was responsible for overseeing the younger campers, who participated in games, projects involving science, art and computer use, and recreational activities. More than 200 younger campers attended each session at Glenelg.

Samantha and Joey said they learned a lot at the camp.

"Although CPR and first aid took all day to learn, and we had to take a test to make sure we knew what to do in case of an emergency," Samantha said, "I know it's good information to know."

She also recalled a day when a tornado watch had been issued for Howard County and she had to "remain calm and lead a group of campers to a safe place" while they waited for more news about the threatening weather.

A lesson Joey won't soon forget is the importance of flexibility.

"Sometimes the campers don't want to [do a particular activity]," he said, adding it's important to be creative.

The pupils said that they have been able to use their camp experience at home, too.

"It has helped me to keep better track of my two younger brothers," said Joey.

"I also have a younger brother, and we get into less fights since I've been in the camp," said Samantha.

Camp co-directors Anne Wooleyhand and Risto Worthington said they looked for committed pupils to join the training camp.

"You have to watch for flexibility, and you have to be creative and positive," said Wooleyhand.

Added Worthington: "We were looking for someone who was willing to step up and ask questions, and we were looking for that eagerness to get in there and get your hands dirty."

Wooleyhand and Worthington praised the CITs' efforts.

"The CITs have really done a great job," Wooleyhand said.

Worthington said the campers "performed well as a group."

Training youngsters early for future camp counseling makes sense, said Bonnie Dunn, administrative director of the Patuxent River 4-H Center in Upper Marlboro. The center trains campers through the American Camping Association.

"The counselors learn how to handle behavioral problems, including controlling their own behavior," Dunn said.

"It also teaches responsibility, and they learn different leadership styles."

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