It’s hard to believe that in just under five months, J-Camp will begin at the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center, in Providence. Every year, once camp is over, I get asked when we start planning for next summer. The simple answer is the day after camp ends!
We start in the fall by evaluating the past summer and thinking about ways we can improve. This includes all aspects of camp: activities offered, lunches, the CIT program and our Israel programming. As a result of this reflection, we have added a fourth group to our growing camp, brought back specialty camps (we are even adding a second sports specialty camp this coming summer), changed when we hold the camp carnival and improved our staff training and professionalism.
One area of camp that we are always striving to improve is our Counselor-In-Training program. This ever-changing program is a source of pride since it helps to train our future J-Camp leaders. Every summer, I hear that campers who are aging out of regular camp are excited to continue as CITs. Camp families also hire our CITs as babysitters and hosts for children’s parties. It is very rewarding to know that some of most beloved counselors started out as CITs at the Dwares JCC.
Our CIT program has always been for campers entering grades 7-10. This year is no different. However, now we will split the CITs into two age-appropriate groups that will get different training. Our Junior CIT (7-8th graders) program will continue to run in two-week sessions. Junior CITs will start each day with a training period to learn various skills. They will also have time to participate in a camp activity of their choice, followed by an afternoon working with the campers.
The Senior CITs (9-10th graders) will have a new four-week program that provides more in-depth training on the skills it takes to be a great counselor. Topics will include introductions, behavior development, programming and putting plans into action. Senior CITs will also spend time working with campers, and they have a free period.
We want all the CITs to work together and learn from each other, regardless of their age. Therefore, all CITs will work on a “time to give back” mitzvah (social action) project at the end of each day. The CITs will pick the project during the first week of camp and continue it throughout the summer. For example, the project could be beautifying the JCC. The CITs will also help plan the annual camp reunion that takes place in December. They will work as a group to plan the activities as well as create a flyer for the event.
This new and improved CIT training program will be more focused on the needs of the CITs, based on their age. We want them to learn what being a counselor means, but also have time for some camp fun. This new program will lead to more responsible, dedicated and better-prepared future leaders of J-Camp. The CITs of this summer are the counselors of tomorrow.
SETH FINKLE is director of Camp Haverim at J-Camp and teen programming at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island. For more information on the CIT program, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.