By: Brianna Opdahl, U of M Sophomore
This summer, I had the opportunity to be a Youth Camp Counselor for Minnesota Farmers Union. This meant spending my summer playing in the sun, swimming in lakes, and sleeping in cabins with no AC! Throughout the summer, we would work with elementary kids for two weeks, junior high for the next two, and then one week with high school students.
On the first day at my new job, I was teamed up with seven strangers, and told that we had two weeks to prepare all of our lessons and materials before camps started for the summer. We had to create eight different lesson plans and then adjust them to the three different age groups. We also had to think of fun crafts and recreational activities to keep them entertained during free time. The rest of the summer would be spent facilitating the camps and then coming back to the office to make “Memory Books” for the campers. These books are filled with pictures of them and their friends from throughout the summer and then are distributed to every camper who attended camp. Extras are kept as promotional material for Minnesota Farmers Union to use as encouragement for youth to come to camp.
This experience helped me grow as a person and develop news skills!
Some of the challenges I faced along the way involved my fellow teammates. The eight of us were expected to spend every hour together for the entirety of the summer. I had to learn to adapt to each of their individual personalities in order to efficiently cooperate and come together as a team. If we couldn’t work together as a team, campers would notice – and that wasn’t something we wanted. Learning to deal with different personalities is a skill that I am going to use for the rest of my life, whether it’s in the workplace or in my personal life. This internship put me in many different situations that were out of my comfort zone, but I was able to work through them and complete whatever task or project was at hand.
The biggest highlight was how much I was able to develop my communication skills. They were tested many different ways! For example, there were times where I would disagree with another counselor, but we had to figure out how to resolve it before it started effecting our interactions with the campers. I also had to use my communication skills to present lessons to the campers throughout the week. There were many different settings in which lesson facilitation took place. Sometimes we would be in a large group with all 80 campers listening to the counselors. At other times, we would break into our “families” (small groups of 10 campers) and present the lesson to them. At times, switching back and forth was very difficult, but doing so gave me practice teaching to different sized groups. This is a skill that will be very useful at my future jobs! Whatever the setting, I feel that I am better prepared than I was before I started this internship.
Pictured here: Brianna Opdahl (fourth from the left), with her fellow camp counselors.