Hello from the desk of the Program Director (sounds so official)! Hopefully that was enough to catch your attention and intrigue has resulted in further reading. I must admit, so much anticipation has been built around these initial blog entries, that the pressure to become a successful "blogger" has created a certain anxiety around the office. Tiny memo pads have replaced our coffee mugs and everyone is now jotting down any quips or clever stories that may come to mind in hopes of spicing up their blog. Well, all that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but a forum to share the happenings of camp with parents, campers and staff had indeed added a bit of excitement to the daily life.
In case you're not sure what exactly a Program Director does, besides the obvious directing of programs, I am in charge of recruiting, interviewing, hiring and staffing for the summer. Each summer we hire approximately 50 counseling staff and around 25 support/special staff. I deal primarily with the counseling staff, most of whom are college students or recent graduates. A majority of the Friendly Pines staff come from within the US, but from a variety of states and only about 25% from Arizona. In addition to our "local" counselors, about 20 or so counselors and support staff come to us from various countries around the world. Using several different placement agencies we are able to conduct the same hiring process and adhere to the same standards we use for US applicants with those thousands of miles away. The international staff hold a variety of positions and add a lot to the camp experience for both campers and counselors.
Most of my winter season is spent staffing, yet it is during these months that we get a majority of our planning, programming and brainstorming done for the upcoming summer season. New activities, improvements to traditional favorites, special days, and daily life are the primary areas we focus on. A lot of our changes depend on the staff that we hire, being able to use their skills and talents to improve programs or create new ones, so essentially the staff profile is shaping the summer long before they even arrive.
As far as staff for 2009 goes, we are well over half full and I often find myself overwhelmed with dozens of wonderful applications that show so much potential and promise. Of course I can't accept everyone who applies, but I am happy to say that I believe I have hired those applicants who exhibit the traits and values essential to creating a wonderful summer experience for all the campers.
A large number of our staff this summer were in one way or another alumni of Friendly Pines. Whether they were a former camper, CILT/CIT or past counselor; many have a connection to Friendly Pines and are so excited about creating the memories and unforgettable experience that have followed them throughout their time since they left Friendly Pines.
In addition to all of our new staff, we are happy to welcome back a lot of familiar faces from 2008. Both Lilly O'Neill and Larissa Newman are travelling across the globe to spend another summer with us. Jason Hoppal and Megan Evans are taking time off work in the valley and escaping the heat to join our staff again. We are also excited to welcome back Will Moore, Gabrielle Abrams and Daphne Scranton this summer as well as Lisa McKinley and Dan Reynolds who we missed last year but are so excited to see again this summer.
I realize this may have exceeded the length of what some deem a successful blog, yet for my first time I hope it will suffice. I hope for parents, this blog has helped you to gain a better understanding of the staffing procedures and overall programming schematics, demonstrating the importance we place on the caliber of individuals we select to spend the summer with your children. Campers, I hope you recognized some names and are excited to see some familiar faces, but also to meet tons of new friends and possibly pick up some new accents or word for "flashlight" (seems like every country has a different word for that one). My future entries will be much more brief, I assure you, but I hope you don't hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or perhaps just to congratulate me on my first very successful, very informative and, admittedly, very long blog.