SummerWorks is one of Salt Lake City's best summer experiences for kids, and it has gained an outstanding reputation as a "leadership laboratory," where young campers transition through guided levels of training to become skilled counselors.
One measure of success for Rowland Hall's 10-week summer program is its continued growth, with 2016 reaching a record high in camper applicants. The program's director, Beth Ott, has cultivated a culture of loyal and engaged staff members, who return each summer to further their abilities as leaders. As the needs of the camp expand, Ms. Ott looks to train more and more future counselors.
"The Leaders In Training (LIT) program is open to rising seventh, eighth, and ninth graders who are interested in taking on a leadership role personally, at camp, and in the community," Ms. Ott said, (LIT camps run June 13 through August 12). "Campers interested in future employment at camp can get involved and begin training to be a junior counselor and then a paid counselor."
SummerWorks counts 30 members in its team, including administration, lead counselors, and summer hires. Ms. Ott's master's degree in recreational therapy and her experience leading groups in acute care psychiatrics give her a unique perspective on tapping Utah's outdoor resources for relevant group experiences.
"We want to create experiences for younger campers so they know we value their place at camp," Ms. Ott said. "And we truly believe they have an extraordinary perspective that makes them good counselors, because they have been campers."
All combined, 10 staff members from various experience levels will be returning to camp this summer. Brother and sister Rowland Hall grads Will ('12) and Liza ('15) Badenhausen are great examples of the successful LIT program, although this year only Liza will continue to carry the banner for the family name.
Liza explained the pathway she and other campers-turned-counselors have taken.
She started as a camper from first grade to sixth grade (2002 to 2009). Next, she became a Leader in Training in seventh and eighth grade (2010 to 2011). She interned her freshman year of high school (2012), and became a junior counselor her sophomore and junior years (2013 to 2014). After working as a counselor her senior year of high school, this summer she is returning, following her freshman year at the University of Puget Sound.
The camp experience had such a positive effect on Liza that she even wrote her college essay about the reciprocal rewards of giving, exchanging, and growing.
"Through all the years and changes the camp has been through," Liza said, "I believe the core values have stayed consistent as a welcoming and stimulating environment for kids, which is why it's a joy to come back to every year."