From CIT jobs to camp fun, there are tons of summer opportunities for your teen. Here are a few ideas to get started.
Jeff Lake Day Camp’s CIT Program
For rising ninth and tenth graders, the CIT (counselor-in-training) program at Jeff Lake Day Camp in Stanhope is the perfect balance between enjoying their last years of camp and learning what’s needed to become a responsible counselor. CITs divide their day between learning how to work with children and participating in camp activities such as rock climbing, boating on the lake or shooting archery. They also take off-site trips to places like Hershey Park, the Jersey Shore or Mountain Creek Waterpark. “We recognize that our CITs are just teens and not full staff members, so we plan [a] program where they gain important leadership skills by learning to be with a group of campers, but also still [have] fun with their friends,” explains Adam Baranker, assistant director of Jeff Lake Day Camp. “The CIT years are about finding their voice, gaining pride from young children looking up to them as role models and getting a feel for what it’s like to be a counselor, all while still enjoying all that camp has to offer.”
South Mountain YMCA Teen Adventure Camp
If your teen is entering grades 7 through 9 and looking for a day camp experience tailored to them, the South Mountain YMCA Teen Adventure program in Maplewood offers camp and day trips. “There are nine weeks in the program and each week has a different theme, such as Culinary Arts, STEM and Color War. Three days a week are travel days to places like Dave and Buster’s, the beach, museums [and] amusement parks, or trips with a focus on social responsibility, such as America’s Grow-a-Row, where teens harvest produce for people in need. The other two days are spent as camp days with a morning meeting, optional free swim and activities such as sports, arts and crafts and downtime activities like board games or lanyard,” explains Tommy Donaldson, director of the Teen Adventure Camp at South Mountain YMCA. The camp has also formed a partnership with a local vocational school to help teens learn about culinary or medical professions and open their eyes to future work opportunities. These summer opportunities let teens work on running and managing a carnival for children at other YMCA camps, gaining leadership skills while giving back to younger campers.
Head to Sleepaway at Odyssey Teen Camp
If your son or daughter hasn’t been going to the same sleepaway camp for years, it can be hard to start as a teenager. Odyssey Teen Camp is an overnight camp in Massachusetts’ Berkshire Mountains designed for ages 12-18. Teens can join this inclusive community for one to four weeks in July and try non-competitive activities like art, yoga, dance and theater. “We’ve always been a good camp for creative, sensitive, insecure teens who sometimes struggle to fit in,” says Adam Simon, director of Odyssey Teen Camp. “In recent years, we also have a number of campers who identify as LGBTQ+ or are gender questioning children and therefore, a number of staff on the gender spectrum. When campers realize they aren’t being judged here, it gives them a chance to try new things and to create a switch in their own reality.”
Work Summer Opportunities
At 16, your teen can work at a day camp in New Jersey. By 17, she can work as a junior counselor at an overnight camp and by 18, as an overnight cabin counselor with kids. Working at a camp can be a rewarding first job and teach your child important skills like leadership, problem-solving, responsibility and teamwork, which will be helpful at any future job. “What other first job can a teenager get where they are given so much responsibility? They are in charge of a parent’s most prized possession and ensuring their safety and wellbeing 24/7,” says Jeff Grabow, director of Camp Echo, a coed overnight camp in Bloomingburg, NY. “Working at camp teaches young people so much, from learning to live with other people in a small space to recognizing that when you don’t pull your weight, it affects other people. I tell all my staff that this will be the hardest job you’ll ever love and will be the most rewarding.”
—Jess Michaels is the director of communications for the American Camp Association (ACA), NY and NJ, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the summer camp experience. For free, one-on-one advice when searching for a camp, call the ACA at 212-391-5208.