It is only normal for us to reflect on the summer all months, especially this month as our Winter Reunion will be in a few weeks. Below are excerpts from a letter that was send to us by a 4 year staff member. We hope you enjoy it.
Working at Camp Bryn Mawr has been an experience that reached beyond all expectations. Here, I have been able to forge relationships that have lasted years and create new friendships every summer. It’s amazing to think that I can travel the United States or even the world and have people I love everywhere I go. That is something I owe to working at this remarkable summer camp. Bryn Mawr has turned into nothing short of my summer home, and the people there, my summer family.
At Bryn Mawr you are given the unique privilege to work in an all-girls setting. This is what makes this place so special. At camp you can see a literal transformation in the girls you work with. They step off the bus in June and immediately feel more like themselves. The atmosphere gives them a place to feel comfortable, a place where you don’t have to look in a mirror or constantly work to impress anybody but yourself.king at Camp Bryn Mawr has been an experience that reached beyond all expectations. Here, I have been able to forge relationships that have lasted years andcreate new friendships every summer. It’s amazing to think that I can travel the United States or even the world and have people I love everywhere I go. That is something I owe to working at this remarkable summer camp. Bryn Mawr has turned into nothing short of my summer home, and the people there, my summer family.
Working here has allowed me to help these young women become comfortable in their own skin, make new friends and excel at the things they love. They are given the chance to branch off from their school year expectations, and you are given the opportunity to help them find their path. To be a part of that gives me such a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
I have fallen in love with Bryn Mawr and everything that makes it so special. It has transformed me as much as it has transformed every girl who attends.
I just wanted to personally thank you for all that you do to give these girls the summer of their lives. My daughter Erica, and my niece Ayla, came home with rave reviews. As impressed as I am with your program, the girls experienced it first hand. And, they are still talking about everything from the first day of camp, to the final night banquet. Even more, they have discussed their desire to come back as Bunk One Angels.
I never dreamed that my daughter, in particular, would find it such a positive experience. I feel that you definitely kept each of the girl’s personality profiles in mind, when choosing their mini groups. Erica was with a wonderful group of girls, in her “mini” group. Basically, she liked everyone in the manor house, and beyond. The Bryn Mawr Camp program allows for individuality, acceptance, and definitely helps the girls to build their self-confidence/self-esteem, just as stated in your video and during the home visit! Erica was encouraged to participate in activities, in which she otherwise expressed little to no interest. And, she loved everything. Even if she “wasn’t the best at it…”. I could not have asked for anything more!!!
In addition, I can see that all of the staff, yourselves included, truly enjoy camp. You get involved in all aspects of camp life. I appreciate that you cannot be everywhere at one time, but your presence is definitely felt by the girls! Which is, to me, exceptional. Ownership brings with it many challenges, however, you seem to have made the girls feel as though they are the top priority. I was thrilled to learn of the same!
Finally, I appreciate you for getting back to me when I had concerns. As the parents of three girls, I am sure you both understand the tricks ones mind can play, when looking at camp pictures. You helped to put my mind at ease, when I was missing my daughter, and my niece. I tried not to be “that parent”, but when I was close, you responded promptly. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
As you know, I was a camper there, and it seems that it is even better than I experienced!!! That is a true testament to your efforts throughout the summer, and the year. Hope you get to rest for a couple of weeks before it is back to work! The girls are starting the countdown to SUMMER 2013…
Best Regards, An Appreciative Parent of a Manor House Camper and Aunt to a Lodge Camper
Loyalty means being true, faith and honor in all we do. Beauty is in more than skin, beauty comes from deep within. Merit is working hard all day, developing virtue along the way. Comradeship is being a friend, loving others ‘til the end. As Bryn Mawr Angels we’ll uphold these four values: the Angel Code.
When I first started working at Bryn Mawr I had no idea just how much that paragraph up there would change my life. I thought I was in for a one-time deal, a summer job that would let me experience the East Coast and maybe an introduction to sleep-away camp that I had never had before. Imagine my surprise to find myself sitting here, in my 7th summer, writing this blog!
You know that Bryn Mawr is a unique place, a place that fosters lifelong friendships—‘summer sisters’. A place where your Angel can be free to express herself and to try new things. A place where she can roll out of bed, throw on a uniform, and greet the day where the emphasis is on her experience rather than her appearance. It is a place where the Angel Code is so deeply entrenched that it is a part of every activity and every program lesson.
I am here to tell you that Bryn Mawr is a unique place for a completely different reason, and one you might not have even considered. The staff, a team of professionals who are here doing what they do best—inspiring, leading, teaching. The staff, who come back summer after summer for the very same reason your daughters do! The Angel Philosophy and what it means in our lives also. The staff at Bryn Mawr genuinely understand the magnitude of the responsibility they have been given for the summer—your children! Understanding that responsibility makes the four virtues in the Angel Philosophy that much more important because in order to teach it and pass it along we need to feel it, embrace it, and allow it to change our lives just as surely as it changes the lives of the campers. And I am here to testify that it does!
I will be writing more about the Angel Code as the summer goes on. I will be looking for those situations that exemplify the Angel Philosophy so that I can share it with all of you and give you not only a glimpse into the summer home that your Angels love so much but also just why the staff here are so inspired and passionate and even awestruck to be working at LBMC.
At Bryn Mawr, we love tradition, and Friday nights are a favorite weekly tradition summer after summer. Every Friday of every summer, all campers and staff dress in white for Shabbat dinner. After enjoying brisket and matzo ball soup, we gather in the Apple O Theater for talent night and a story read by Jane.
Some of the stories Jane reads change from year to year as she discovers new books she knows campers will enjoy, but there are two best-beloved books without which no Bryn Mawr summer would be complete: “The Giving Tree,” by Shel Silverstein, and “The Velveteen Rabbit,” by Margery Williams.
“The Velveteen Rabbit” is traditionally read on the first Friday night of the summer. For those who may be unfamiliar with the story, it’s about a stuffed toy rabbit who learns that a toy becomes Real when it is truly loved by its owner – and “once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.” It isn’t until the Rabbit is separated from his beloved owner that he learns what it really means to be loved and to be Real.
“The Giving Tree” is another story about a relationship between a child and a well-loved object – in this case, an apple tree who gives selflessly to the little boy she loves as he grows up and changes.
These two stories are treasured chapters of camp lore. Older girls know them practically by heart, and you’ll often hear them mentioned in the alma maters our Bunk One campers write for Color War Sing. And since many counselors grew up with these classic tales, they also love to hear them read and share them with their campers.
But it isn’t just the stories themselves that are important – it’s their messages. “The Giving Tree” and “The Velveteen Rabbit” have become traditional stories at camp because they illustrate the most important value we want our campers to hold dear: what it means to love and care for someone else. In “The Giving Tree,” the tree shows her love for the little boy time and time again by giving up parts of herself – her apples, her branches, her trunk. In the end, she has nothing left of herself but a stump, but she is content because she is with the person she loves, and that is enough. And in “The Velveteen Rabbit,” the Rabbit is granted his greatest wish – to become a Real rabbit – because he became Real in the heart of the child who loved him so much.
We’re proud that Bryn Mawr is so spirited, has such a wonderful facility and offers such a wide variety of activities and programs. But nothing makes us more proud than hearing campers talking to one another about “The Giving Tree” or “The Velveteen Rabbit” and knowing that they have learned the importance of caring for one another. We love that campers treasure these stories and look forward to hearing them each year – and we especially appreciate seeing our campers carry these messages of love and giving into their daily lives, at camp, at school and at home.
Traditionally, the beginning of the year is a time when we try to adopt new, better habits. On average, about one third of Americans resolve to lose weight each new year. (No wonder the gym is always so much more crowded in January!) Statistically, though, about 80 percent of those well-meaning resolutions will have been abandoned by February. Why? Well, it’s hard to make major changes to the way we are used to behaving, and even harder to make them overnight. Learning to be healthy takes practice and discipline, and it isn’t always easy, even when we know that eating right and exercising regularly are good for us.
The same goes for raising children to be responsible and accountable for their actions. A sense of responsibility isn’t something we’re born with, and it isn’t something that can be taught in one moment. Parents Magazine compares responsibility to manners – it’s a “learned behavior.” That means that as parents, we’re responsible ourselves for making sure we help our children develop an understanding of how important it is to take accountability for their actions. We can do that by giving them age-appropriate responsibilities and providing incentives and consequences for different kinds of behavior.
Chores & tasks
Giving children responsibilities around the house is a great way to teach accountability and show them how their actions can positively impact others. Even small children can start to learn responsibility by helping to pick up their own toys or clear the table. This article provides some good suggestions for ways to realistically and constructively involve kids in deciding what chores they do and how they ought to be done.
If we tell a child to expect a consequence for a certain action and then don’t apply that consequence, we lose an opportunity to teach accountability. For example, if the rule is you can’t have dessert unless you eat all your vegetables, but we give our children ice cream even though they left all their broccoli and cauliflower on the plate, what we’re really teaching them is that the vegetable rule doesn’t really matter. The best consequences in the world are completely ineffective if they’re never applied. The same goes double for incentives: If you promise a child a reward for a certain good behavior, make sure you come through when the reward has been earned. We have to follow through if we really want our children to learn that their actions have consequences that they can control by being responsible for their own behavior.
Responsibility and camp
Accountability and responsibility are a big part of the summer camp experience. Campers have daily age-appropriate responsibilities that teach them accountability and help them develop healthy independence, and counselors and other staff members are trained to help campers understand how their own actions affect themselves and others.
When your daughter is coming to camp for the first time, it’s a good idea to prepare her for the fact that she will have certain responsibilities at camp, such as making her bed and helping clear the table at meals. Her camp responsibilities may be different from her home responsibilities, but they are just as important; they help camp run smoothly for everyone. As she gets older, she will have more responsibilities at camp, such as having a Peanut Daughter, leading a Junior Camp activity day, and someday captaining a Color War team — a big responsibility, but one that she’ll be ready for after years of practice!
Today, we hosted a parent panel for our staff members. It allows selected parents to explain why they chose Bryn Mawr, what they expect and would like from our counselors. It also allows our staff to ask questions and get first hand answers from our parents. Through staff evaluations, we have found that this session historically rates as the most meaningful during the week. Below is an email we received last year from one of those parents who participated in this session.
It is not often that a person gets invited to look inside the guts of a business, a restaurant, a hotel, a school or even a home. And, for good reason, most of us don’t really want to know what is on the inside – as long as the person, product or end result is what we wanted, we feel good about it. Simply put, when you don’t want to risk the chance of falling out of love with something because you see too much – sometimes its just easier not to go inside.
I never really wanted to see inside LBMC. In fact, I never really thought deeply enough about the inner workings of a girls camp to care. I just knew that it was considered a great camp that was safe and seemingly well–run. That is, until I had the chance to go deep inside. I wasn’t invited in at the time the camp was fully operational with kids – rather, I had the chance to see under the hood at the most vulnerable time for a camp or a business – when it is not yet open for business, when everything is exposed, when people are who they are – no pretenses, no show, no nothing. It’s one thing to see a camp fully functioning with happy kids – it’s another to see what happens behind the scenes – and to gain a better understanding of why the kids are in a place to be happy.
What I saw and experienced, even surprised me – a 15-year camp veteran who held a senior leadership position in a respected boys camp for many years. I saw a team of professionals doing what they do best – teaching, leading, inspiring and digging deep. I saw young women and even a few men absolutely soaking up the lessons and opportunity. I saw a culture being articulated and understood and most of all, embraced. I saw people at work who genuinely understood the magnitude of the responsibility ahead. To many of the young women I spoke to, this wasn’t just a summer job, but an opportunity of a lifetime. That alone made me feel great about where my daughter was heading in a few short days.
I followed the counselors training schedule for an afternoon. It was jam-packed with activities – real learning opportunities, both for them to learn about their responsibilities as well as for the camp’s leadership to learn about them. Few businesses go to the lengths to train full time year round employees like LBMC does with their staff. They understand the psychology and attention necessary to prepare their team for our children.
One of my highlights was getting to watch the “traditions” presentation and sing the camp’s alma mater. It was moving – the camaraderie, the commitment and the detail of what my daughter was about to experience. It was incredible to see snippets of every major tradition and planned highlight of the summer.
But, there was more. I was put to work. I had the honor (at first I didn’t understand it) of serving dinner and breakfast. I had the chance to personally interact with people of all different backgrounds from across the country and globe. I got to experience a genuine warmth and gratitude from the staff – just for putting eggs on their plate. It was an amazing feeling.
I also had a chance to spend time with the male staff and to replace all the beds and mattresses. There was nothing wrong with any of the oak framed beds and most of the mattresses were in fine shape – when I asked why – I was told that we wanted to build new beds that were more appropriate for our campers. They didn’t have to, and quite honestly no one would know they ever changed them out, but they did it anyway. It is the story that I saw replicated again and again – from the bunks to the kitchen to the fields. It was also a reinforcement of the type of people that are employed by the camp and the unusual level of commitment to doing it right – because it is the right thing to do.
I also got to see something that I wish I fully appreciated for my daughter over the first 2 years she has been at camp. I saw Jane and Dan and their full leadership team meet for more than 4 hours discussing every single counselor in excruciating detail – going through their backgrounds, their job interviews and the notes from the days training sessions so they could perfectly match the personality and skill set to a particular set of campers. At the end of the four hours, when I thought they were done, they shared that this meeting would be repeated at least 4 other times – not including the hundreds of the sidebar conversations about each of the individual counsellors. And, that there were exercises designed to provide even greater exploration and assurance that the decisions they had made, were in fact the correct ones.
I had always hoped that my daughter’s counselor would be well vetted and trained. And, I had hoped that the camp would give her a good counselor. I never, in all my years in camping, have seen the absolute obsession with getting it right – for the kids and the counselors. It is as close to a science and an art as any professional placement I have ever seen.
There is never a guarantee that a child is going to be happy. But, by going to the lengths they do, they give every child a chance. They put each child, long before they get to camp, the chance to be herself and to succeed.
I wasn’t just there to look inside for the fun of it. In reality, it was accidental. I was there as part of a specific staff training exercise (and since I live far away, I had to fly in the day before). Along with 3 other parents, I was invited for a one hour session to talk to staff from a parent’s perspective (and in my case, not just a dad but a former counselor, group leader.)
Before last summer this had never been done before at LBMC, or probably any camp around the US. Remember, a camp counselor is not a parent, but a young woman who acts as a parent, an older sister and friend for the seven weeks our daughters are at camp. Jane and Dan believe it is important to not only have experts come in and train staff, but actual parents. The result was an understanding of why we entrust our daughters to LBMC, and what we hope they will get out of the summer. The counselors left with an even deeper respect for their role and an understanding that every child is some mom and dad’s little girl, and that individual needs to be understood for who she is and loved all summer.
As I left camp on Father’s Day, away from my family after spending two days as an insider, I realized that the greatest gift I could have ever been given, was given that day – the absolute understanding that my daughter is in the safest, most loving and caring environment with people who not only know, but are truly committed to doing it right.
Jane and Dan are the difference. I have never seen two people so committed to others – employees and campers alike. They demonstrated an understanding that that regardless of the history, the rich traditions, the activities, the friendships — it is the individual that matters – from top to bottom and everyone in between. As they shared, some people may think knowing a name is important – what is important at LBMC, is really knowing the child — each child, each family, each counselor and each other. I learned that its not the surface conversation, but the in-depth understanding and connection that makes the camp what it is.
As I left camp, after feeling that I had been there for the summer, I was flooded with emotion. I don’t remember ever being as awestruck, inspired or passionate about something as I am about LBMC.
Now, I can only wait with absolute excitement and childlike anticipation for my daughter’s bus to arrive at camp in 4 days for what I know is the beginning of an amazing summer with people who know her and care for her deeply. Thank you for allowing me inside. Thank you for letting me see it the way that it truly is. Thank you for doing it right. And, thank you for loving my daughter for who she is.
We are 2 full days into our Leadership Week where our Group Leaders, Program Directors, Division Heads and other leaders come together to learn from each other, our camp policies, how to be the best role model and form special bonds that make Bryn Mawr so unique. Below is an excerpt from one of Dan’s Leadership Week sessions to our leadership staff of summer 2011. We thought you would enjoy reading it.
LBMC is successful because we have leaders who set high standards and goals on cabin row and in program areas. These strategies are developed and refined in the non summer months with the assistance of Bob Ditter and our full time staff. They are implemented during our Spring Retreat and staff orientation.
This week – Leadership is about goals, values and concepts.
Our leadership team will set the tone and influence our camp environment and create the culture.
We set high standards and our values reflect the concern we have for our staff and campers.
These goals, values and concepts make up the LBMC culture and how our parents and campers judge us.
Welcome to LBMC Leadership Week and becoming part of the 91st chapter of our illustrious history.
In past blog posts, we’ve talked about how we teach our campers to be role models. One important part of that process is providing campers with great staff role models who can show them what good leadership looks like. And we spend a lot of time working with our staff members to help them, in turn, understand how they can model great behaviors for our campers. We really meant it when we said the learning never stops, even for our directors and leadership staff!
We start off each summer with two weeklong sessions designed just for our staff members, to get them geared up for the season, ready to do their jobs and make camp the best experience possible for our Bryn Mawr Angels. During Leadership Week, our group leaders, program directors and other key staff members spend their days reacquainting themselves with camp, talking about Bryn Mawr philosophies and preparing to welcome a new crop of counselors.
At the end of Leadership Week, we welcome our entire staff — returning counselors as well as new staff members who made it through our rigorous recruiting process — for Staff Week, a special week of camp planned just for our general staff.
We plan Bryn Mawr Staff Week with five goals in mind:
1. Introduce staff to camp: facility, policies, procedures, etc. 2. Make everyone feel welcome and comfortable in their surroundings. 3. Help staff understand what their role is at camp. 4. Prepare for the arrival of campers. 5. Make sure all staff members understand the LBMC camp philosophy.
We believe our Staff Week is one of the most unique counselor orientation programs in summer camping. Lots of camps do a fantastic job of helping their staff members learn rules, traditions and emergency procedures, and while all those important topics are covered during Bryn Mawr’s Staff Week, we strive to make our staff training an experience that immerses counselors in camp life so they really understand what it means to be part of the Bryn Mawr family. We provide information in unconventional ways — for example, instead of just going over uniform rules, our group leaders put on a uniform do’s-and-don’ts fashion show, and instead of explaining what the surprise breakout for an all-camp special event like Color War or Olympics is, we organize a scaled-down special event so counselors can get a taste of camp at its most spirited. We’ve found over the years that these unusual (and entertaining) methods of teaching counselors about camp are extremely effective in helping staff really understand what Bryn Mawr is all about. Our counselors don’t just learn about camp from a handbook or an informational speech, they get to experience it for themselves before the campers ever arrive.
During Staff Week, we give counselors as realistic a camp experience as possible, introducing them to Bryn Mawr traditions and spirit, orienting them to the campus and the daily schedule, and getting them up to speed on rules and policies. Just as important as the nuts and bolts of daily camp life, though, are the sessions on leadership, role modeling and working with girls. Counselors reflect on who they were as children and what they wanted and needed from the adults around them. We talk about what it means to be a leader and a role model and how we can all model positive behaviors for our campers. We give counselors opportunities to practice positive leadership through role play scenarios. We bring in camp guru Bob Ditter to provide in-depth training. We even bring in camp parents to talk to the staff about their hopes and expectations for their daughters. Staff Week is all about understanding camp and understanding the important leadership role of a counselor.
Counselors finish the week excited about camp, ready to meet their campers — and prepared to assume the responsibilities of being great leaders and role models! But the training doesn’t stop once the campers arrive. We continue to provide ongoing leadership training throughout the summer in weekly staff meetings and through one-on-one and small group sessions. Bob Ditter returns to camp later in the summer as well, to check in with the staff and work with individual counselors. From the moment they set foot on campus to the morning they set off for home in August, counselors are learning just as much as campers what it means to be a role model — and passing those lessons on to Bryn Mawr campers.