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Mario at Camp!

Note from Steve Sir - At the end of the summer, we hosted a dynamic, young man who just got a dual graduate degree in education and business, Mario Del Cueto. He offered to share a blog about his observations. I was delighted to accept! Here is his piece:

17 summers spent singing songs and stampeding through the wilderness has solidified camp’s place in my heart. I’ve spent the last two years at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and Graduate School of Education looking critically at what makes camp so powerful. This summer I traveled the country visiting daycamps and overnight camps, trying to understand the secret sauce behind some of America’s best camps.

From that search, it is clear to me that there are three things Camp Champions has gotten ABSOLUTELY right.

Camper Choice

Camp’s ability to promote child choice is super powerful, but how is it best done? On one end, complete activity choice means campers may elect to not engage in new experiences or may give up on a challenge prematurely. On the opposite end, a predetermined schedule prevents kids from following their real-time drives or diving deep into a new skill. Camp Champions strikes the right balance by providing scaffolding, yet promoting choice, within each activity period. Assigning divisions to a different department in each of Camp Champion’s six activity periods means that every camper will be exposed to the gamut of camp activities, from fine arts to sports. While at each department, a camper can decide to craft a dream catcher or learn the guitar, play basketball or foosball, ride a water ski or just swim in the lake. Further, Camp Champions rotates which activates are available to keep things fresh and exciting.

Staff Leadership Team

Coming from the business world, I know the importance of a strong Leadership Team and it is abundantly clear that Camp Champions is focused on cultivating a top notch leadership unit. Camp Champions has daily leadership check-ins that are highly structured and ruthlessly efficient. Their team organization of Department Heads (activity leads) and Division Leaders (residential leads) ensures that every counselor has multiple outlets for 1:1 support. Lastly, their practice of promoting from within ensures that institutional knowledge and a strong camp culture pervades throughout Camp Champions staff.

Senior Camper Program

How high schoolers fit into the camp puzzle is a question that stumps many camps across the country. This summer I was most impressed by Camp Champions’ Senior Camper Program. Steve and Susie have created a program that drives its participants to contribute to the camp ecosystem while developing as individuals and deepening friendships. For two out of the six blocks in a day, Senior Campers are assisting with maintenance projects or instructing activity periods, thereby playing a key role in operations of camp. Additionally, through intentional discussions on habit forming and identify creating, the program propels participant self-improvement. Further, expanded privileges, ample activity participation, and off-site trips ensure that the fun never leaves the camp experience. In retrospect, teenage Mario would have supremely benefitted from Camp Champions’ Senior Camper Program.

If you’re interested in more of my learnings from this summer, connect with me on LinkedIn or take a look at my blog site here.

Mario Del Cueto