Outreach Workers On Site Supporting Campers This Summer

The summers I remember as a kid brought with them a sense of freedom, a feeling that there was a lower threshold for responsibility, and more flexibility in the rules that governed life inside and outside the house.

While I still get nostalgic for the idea of summer, I have adopted a more cautious approach in regards to my relationship with the warmer months. For those forced to subscribe to something outside of the academic calendar the months of June, July, and August can just as easily trigger feelings of stress and panic as it does rest and relaxation.

For families and single parents who operate under the standard 52 week fiscal year, the summer can pose a serious challenge to overcome in the form of affordable quality childcare.

While some might instinctually think of high costs associated with private camps, navigating a patchwork of one week specialty programs, or the first come first served meat grinder of competition for municipal camps, what happens once the spot is secured?

Understanding that the shift from the school year to the summer off season comes with more than just an influx of free time for our young staff and campers, the Town of Manchester has taken the additional step of incorporating Behavioral Outreach Workers at each of our campsites for the summer of 2023.

While for many of our estimated 320 campers, summer camp is a place where they can unwind and enjoy 10 weeks of carefree fun. Still for others, the start of summer could mean extended periods of time away from support systems and routines they have become accustomed to over the school year. Assistant Director of Recreation and longtime summer camp organizer, Calvin Harris,recognizes the changing needs of campers who are registering for his programs and the need for camps to go through an evolution as well.

“The disruptions caused by the pandemic have had a serious impact on our young people and we see that at all of our campsites. For a lot of our younger campers they simply haven’t had the opportunity to develop the social skills in the classroom that we expect them to show up to camp with. It doesn’t seem like a lot but everytime a counselor has to work with one of the campers through a behavior, that’s time they don’t have to dedicate to the other children’s experience at camp,” Harris said.

Over time in Manchester, as with most municipal camp programs, the counselors and seasonal directors that make up our camp staff had increasingly taken on roles of direct service providers for campers and families who received services for emotional and behavioral support during the camp day.

Recent disruptions to the predictable home/school/social balance have had lasting effects on the young people who fill our campsites. While in many instances implementing training that addresses the physical, social, and emotional needs of campers is enough to divert most disruptive and harmful behaviors there is a point at which the need for constant intervention eventually disrupts and devalues the experience for everyone.

Aisha Young is a Camp Director who has been working with the town for the last five years and like others, she too has noticed the change in the social and emotional preparedness that her campers arrive at her site with each summer.

“Personally I was really excited to hear that we would be hosting the Outreach Coordinators at each of the sites this year,” Young said. “In the past it was really difficult to make sure we as staff were giving some of the kids the attention they needed and were accustomed to. If things come up on the schedule that we haven’t planned for it’s just that much harder to support a camper in need while managing the experience for the rest of the camp as well.”

For Young, who is attending university and working towards a degree in psychology, the addition of the outreach coordinators to the camp supervisory staff has been even more beneficial.

“I’m really looking forward to using Nate (Nate Philbreck) as a resource this summer! I’m already planning on utilizing some of the techniques he’s been utilizing in my own personal preparation for a career outside of summer camps.”

Philbreck, who has previously served as the Lead Behavior Technician for the school district and who currently serves as the Lead Behavior Technician for Bennett Academy, is joining the summer camp staff as an outreach coordinator for the first time.

While his role during the academic year largely centers around providing training for educators and school staff on how to de-escalate behaviors and prevent them from becoming a disruption in the first place, he is finding a new and receptive audience to share his experience with while on-site this summer.

“I see a great benefit in the addition of the Outreach Workers to camp this year. I meet directly with campers as needed but I have really been enjoying spending time working with the counselors and directors on incorporating proactive strategies that help to resolve conflict before it get out of control,” Philbreck said. “One of the most important things I can do is to model behaviors that I know are effective with the counselors and directors, and in turn help them translate those behaviors to the campers. It’s still early in the season but so far that method seems to be working well.”

The camp season runs through the second week of August so there is for sure still plenty of summer ahead of the seasonal staff and campers of Manchester. The hope is that by recognizing the evolving needs of the community we serve and by putting accommodations in place in a timely manner we can better ensure a positive experience for both staff and campers alike. At the end of the day the most important thing is that everyone makes it home safely, but right behind that is a responsibility to enrich the lives of the young people under our supervision and to offer them a space where they can grow, develop relationships, and thrive.

This is just one of the many ways the program staff are making sure to stay ahead of the curve and to keep our programs and services tailored to better serving our friends and neighbors.  So look forward to the continued evolution camps and our other programs, we look forward to seeing you all out there!

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