Credit: Jean Chapiro

“Child development specialist.”

The term above seems impressive, doesn’t it? Does the term “camp counselor” sound equally impressive? You’re probably thinking not, but the first phrase is the expression my boss told me to put on my resume when I worked for him … as a camp counselor.

Before working as a creative writing counselor at Frost Valley YMCA summer Camp, I was under the impression that being a camp counselor, or working an equally unassuming-sounding job, would not teach me new skills. I wrongfully assumed that it would make for an easy and fun summer — a break from the exhausting schedule of the school year. Well, I’m here to say that most of those assumptions are wrong. 

This job is fun, and it is immensely gratifying to watch as right before your eyes a child opens up to you, but the work is exhausting and stressful, and demands constant creative solutions. One interaction that was particularly memorable for me was a camper who told me she nearly failed her English class last school year, but after learning creative writing at camp, felt more confident about her ability to actually write. “I don’t feel stupid anymore,” she said to my co-counselor and me. I am learning every day, stretching the boundaries of my comfort, and schooling myself on not judging a book by its cover — or a job by its title — in the future. 

It is endlessly fulfilling to be a creative writing teacher, to be the person that ignites that special spark in a child. Being a camp counselor allows you to be a full-time teacher and a full-time friend to children who desperately need (or just want) a shoulder to cry on. Camp counselors truly shoulder the burden of their kids' needs, and it is the kind of job that teaches you things you didn't realize you didn't know. Basically, the job is hard and should be treated as such. 

Yes, it is difficult to secure internships in big cities, and probably equally fulfilling to work in large firms or for big corporations over the summer, but no one automatically assumes occupations are easy. Everyone congratulates the student who lands an internship in a consulting firm, at Goldman Sachs, or with any bank ever, yet that same enthusiasm withers when you say you’ll be working with kids instead of on campaigns. 

I shouldn’t have to come up with creative ways to word “camp counselor” in order to sound more accomplished on my resume — a resume that proudly boasts working with kids at a job that is demanding and satisfying should be enough. This philosophy applies to many situations, and I think we as students need to stop focusing so narrowly on creating resumes hopped up on steroids.

Changing the font from twelve to ten point five just to fit every last volunteer organization you helped during the summer is a common move. Everyone does it, and if we want to compete in this increasingly competitive world, I guess we have to follow suit to a certain extent. However, if people would give more consideration to the actual merit and weight of each and every bullet point on a resume, understanding and digesting the invisible but countless bullet points of life skills learned from each included accomplishment, our world would be more accepting of the unconventional.

I have recently added the term “Camp Counselor” to my resume, and am very proud to have it listed there. 

SOPHIA DUROSE is a College freshman from Orlando, Florida studying English. Her email is sdurose@sas.upenn.edu

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