July 26, 2016
This year, we have counselors from every continent in the world except Antarctica. They come from 15 different countries and speak at least 8 languages.
A decade ago, most of our counselors were from the States.
So what changed?
First, we thought it would make the camp experience richer and more interesting for the campers. In addition to learning about archery or ceramics, they can also learn about different cultures and perspectives.
Second, the accents are awesome. OK, someone had to say it.
Most importantly, we found a few counselor placement companies that were willing to go the extra mile to support our somewhat unconventional hiring rules. Please let me explain what this means.
Our “no alcohol, even during off-times” policy is highly unusual in the world of camp. Most camps take the approach that counselors should be able to do what they want on their time off as long as it is legal. I completely understand this perspective, but we have found that holding counselors to higher standards attracts the type of counselors who want to make the biggest impact on kids, so we have this odd rule.
In any event, we were reluctant to recruit internationally because we feared that foreign counselors would assume that we were not serious about our rules and we would be forced to let them go. It is hard enough to terminate a counselor that lives in Austin for having a beer on a day off, but such a move has substantial consequences for an international counselor. International counselors can only remain in the country legally if they are working for us (their sponsor). If we let someone go, they must return home in quick order, often paying a fee to the airline to change the ticket. We did not want that on our conscious, so we avoided hiring non-Americans.
About five years ago, Leah Ma’am (our excellent girls camp director) forged a relationship with one of the best international placement companies. They had a great answer. First, they would help explain to candidates that we mean what we say. Second, they helped subsidize a trip to London for Leah Ma’am to meet candidates in person.
The first summer we hired internationals (2013) she only brought over a few. This group was excellent for us and started to talk about us with friends and classmates back home.
When we returned next year, we found that candidates had arrived 2 hours early to line up (queue up in British parlance) to get interviews with us. We have become an “it” camp in the UK. During the camp fair (where camps can interview candidates), roughly 30 camps will be there. Most will have 3-8 people in line to interview. We will typically now have over 50 waiting to talk with us. We even have some of our counselors from the previous year walk up and down the line to discourage any tepid individuals. We are delighted that we get to choose from the very best that attend the show. We also now also attend a show in Scotland and have started hiring counselors from Australia and New Zealand.
Nowadays, we have a wonderful combination of returning counselors, international counselors and graduates of our Senior Camper program. We love the way this team has pulled together to serve your children.
On Closing Day, please take the time to speak with your child’s counselors. I suspect you will find them as delightful as we do.
PS The counselors in this picture are from China, England/Spain, South Africa, Scotland and San Antonio.