Working at camp can be like living the dream.
According to David Baxter, director of marketing and communications at Red Oak Camp in Kirtland, and Nicole Latosky, education coordinator at Geauga Humane Society’s Rescue Village in Russell Township, like every other profession, employees have unique journeys leading up to their camp career choice.
For Latosky, working at camp stemmed from working as an educator.
“As an elementary school teacher previously, it is important to keep children engaged throughout the summer,” she said. “When I started at Rescue Village, a summer camp program was already established, yet it needed some updating. The now revamped program offers up-close and personal experiences with animals and other animal-related organizations to enhance the human-animal bond while having fun doing so.”
As for Baxter, his journey started as a camper and counselor in his youth. After going to camp every summer, he went to college and took the business route.
“I did well in that, and I got a job where I was working 70 hours a week,” he recalled. “I had made it in what I thought was making it. I was making a lot of money and doing well on paper. That was the first time I thought, ‘Wow, I’m feeling sad and overworked.’ Fortunately, I could leave my job without knowing where to go. I wanted to figure out what I wanted to do.”
He said his next step was thinking about his previous jobs where he thought the work didn’t feel like work.
“I thought back to being 16 years old and I was just a counselor,” he said. “That truly didn’t feel like work and I thought, ‘Whoa, you could do this your whole life.’ It just sort of slowly grew from me reaching out and asking if the camp needed any help.”
At Rescue Village, campers have opportunities to gain knowledge, whether from a guest speaker or from activities.
“So, the day is pretty intense, yet there is so much knowledge and interactions that occur each day,” Latosky noted. “My favorite part of working at camp is watching the excitement of the campers learning about different animal species and creating unbiased opinions on why that species is important to the community.”
Baxter said working at camp is synonymous with giving back.
“Most camps, and camps in general, are very mission-driven and most of that time (that mission) is to develop campers,” he explained. “The goal is to help kids grow and learn. It’s such an amazing place to be in where that is your true job to help kids grow and give them an opportunity to be better in the world. That is what I love my job. That is when it doesn’t feel like work.”
Baxter’s job at camp is year-round, but finds his motivation to continue doing it is like when he was a seasonal counselor.
“I was a counselor and I was someone who would come back every summer and I think the biggest reason is that I got to connect with nature and I got to teach kids practical skills and life lessons,” he stated. “And it feels like you’re doing something good in the world. It doesn’t feel like you have to actually go to work.”
Latosky added she keeps coming back because of how important her role is in keeping the camp rolling.
“I’m the head of the education department and summer camp is one of our biggest and most popular education programs,” she said. “We fill it with fun projects, exciting guest speakers, a feel-good conservation project and of course, animal interactions. It is one of the few programs offered in the area of its kind.”
Baxter said anyone can work at camp.
“The first big step is to dive in and find (a camp) that can take you on as a counselor in the summer,” he said. “It’s sort of like a life journey. Like any career, you start by looking for an opportunity.”