By Madison Adams
Movies seem to depict an image of summer camp that includes activities like horseback riding, pool parties and zip lines. The campers in the movies all seem to be creating memories they will cherish for a lifetime, along with building relationships with cabin mates that will become lifelong friends.
Summer camps allow kids to be away from home during a period of time, meeting new friends and participating in many activites under the supervision of camp staff and counselors.
Waco junior Maddie Morris said the memories created at summer camps are not just limited to the movie screen. In fact, she says the memories and impact of a summer at camp are not even limited to campers but rather extend to everyone behind the scenes who makes summer camps possible.
According to the American Camp Association website there are nearly 10,000 summer camps operating in the United States that range in theme from adventure, to sports and even faith based camps. Every year college students flock to these camps and dedicate large portions of their summers to serving, loving and mentoring the youth campers, often times getting paid very little for the long hours, weeks of commitment and sheer exhaustion that come from being a camp counselor.
Morris spent half of her summer in 2013 working for Sky Ranch in Van, Tex. with their middle-school-aged campers where she earned around $1,000. The non-denominational Christian camp features camp options including typical summer camps but also has specialized options including adventure camps, leadership camps, rodeo camps and city camps.
“There is something so amazing about pouring yourself completely bone dry for the sake of the gospel and allowing your friends, community and most importantly, the Lord, to be your constant source of fuel,” Morris said.
Baylor University has a large portion of the student body that spends their summers working as camp counselors or staff. In the past, there were summer camp job fairs hosted in the Bill Daniel Student Center where often over 36 camps would be represented.
Waco senior Aineta Dunn, a close friend, said Morris was well equipped to be a counselor with a selfless attitude and encouraging spirit.
“I wasn’t all that surprised when Maddie first told me she was applying to be a camp counselor,” Dunn said. “She’s always had a huge heart for serving those around her especially young kids. “
Growing up, Morris did not attend summer camps; however, when Sky Ranch came to campus to recruit and conduct interviews she said she was immediately drawn to the way they approached ministry and incorporated a fun and exciting camp life all at the same time.
“The counselors get every opportunity to engage with the kids and talk to them about Jesus all while doing all of the fun camp things at the same time,” Morris said.
Spending summers at camp means a person often has to sacrifice the idea of holding internships or jobs that might be more in line with their corporate career after college but Morris believes her job as a counselor is still greatly impacting her future.
“Even though camp may not be the business world or working with adults, you are still responsible for so many little humans and you are constantly thinking of what might happen next,” Morris said. “As a counselor you have to be prepared for any and all situations. This past summer gave me life experiences that will most definitely prepare me for the future and who would have thought it would be by living life with middle school girls?”
Morris said the campers look forward to camp all year and she feels, regardless of pay, the fact that you get to play such a large role in these children’s life makes her time spent at camp absolutely worthwhile.
“One of the biggest things that I got out of my counselor experience was just how important it is for us to lay down our lives for others,” Morris said. “This is something that is crucial not only for us in our social and spiritual life but in our professional lives as well. I think if more people were to practice that in their professional lives we would see a big difference in society.”
Dunn said how Morris’ life calling is not just defined by what she is able to achieve on this earth but rather relies on her higher calling of serving and loving others.
“Maddie has a gift for loving others and her campers were no different,” Dunn said. “Her love for her campers came from her love for the Lord. She has a natural ability to influence and impact others in ways she doesn’t even realize. She loved her time with them because she knew that at camp, as well as in normal life, she is living for something bigger than herself.”
Many students already have their summer plans all set and ready to begin; however, if a student is still looking for something to do with their four months of freedom Morris recommends contacting some of the local camps to see if positions are still available.
“Apply! Just Do it!” Morris said. “Allow Jesus to be your one and only source of energy for a summer and you will do things that you never thought you were capable of.”