As we opened applications this week for our 2023 CIT program and prepare to open hiring to returning staff, I think our culture of leadership development has been on my mind all week.
During a Zoom call with a new family yesterday, I was asked a question that I loved answering: “what is your favorite thing about Runoia?” I took a moment to think, and realized I could answer in two ways. In a more literal, physical, and tangible way, of course the waterfront and Great Pond are my favorite part of Runoia! But I had another answer – the people, our campers and staff, and the community we’ve built across generations and (literally) more than a century of time. I thought about the irreplaceable people I’ve met and bonds I’ve formed, the weddings of best friends I will attend, and the indelible memories that are a result of time spent at camp.
When I reflect on how this continuity of culture and community has developed and sustained at Runoia, I think of all of the intentional decisions made each summer by our leadership staff. In a meeting with Jen yesterday, she and I pondered how to better help our new staff integrate and feel welcomed immediately upon arrival. Striving for betterment for our camp population every summer is at the core of who we are.
One of the strongest intentions of Runoia which contributes heavily to our community and culture is our commitment to leadership development within our own population. We aspire to help our campers take on more responsibility, leadership, and create moments of mentorship with younger campers in each passing year. By their Senior Village year, our oldest campers are often seen sitting with our HLC campers on their lap at campfire, helping them make decisions in the food line, and passing on their hard-earned skills in classes.
Each year, several of our graduating campers move on to take part in our CIT (Counselor-in-Training) leadership development program the next summer. This program is designed as both a stepping stone to becoming a JC (Junior Counselor) and eventual full-fledged counselor, AND simply to help our long-beloved family members develop as people. In our CIT program, participants:
- Complete workshops on focused topics of leadership
- Assist counselors in program areas and in the cabin and explore areas they’d like to teach in the future
- Gain experience running EPs (evening programs) and campfires
- Plan and orchestrate camp-wide events like the 4th of July
- Choose to train and attempt certifications in JMG (Junior Maine Guide) or Red Cross Lifeguarding
- Experience a bonding trip together and learn about the perspective of a trip leader out of camp
- Earn an archery instruction certification
- Experience a college tour together
All of the above create a summer-long learning experience to develop our CITs as both future counselors and great human beings. This past summer, three of our four 2020 CITs were on staff as counselors, and four of our five 2021 CITs were on staff as JCs. What results is a staff sprinkled with love for camp and certified Runoia experts.
Applications for our hopeful 2023 CITs are open now by request! We can’t wait to see how another wonderful group of CITs shapes up for 2023, and are already thinking about how our youngest campers will one day be there, too.