Category Archives: staff

A Fond Farewell to Welch

Dear Wildwood Family and Friends,

Welch, holding his infant son, Tate

I am reaching out to you today to share the news that my time as the Director of Wildwood comes to an end this month. I consider myself very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to serve as director of such a meaningful and long-standing camp program. My departure comes as the result of an opportunity for my family to relocate back to our home state of North Carolina. We look forward to being close to home again, with our extended family nearby.

The team at Wildwood is incredibly strong, and they have all been a pleasure to work with. Meredith, with her passion and experience in her role as Program Coordinator, joined by Kyle, with his tremendous amount of outdoor education knowledge, will continue to guide the program in new and exciting ways while maintaining the high quality you have come to expect from Wildwood. Astro literally keeps the lights on, and Amy continues to build support and tell the story of what makes Wildwood so special. The newest member of the Wildwood team, Heather, is already loving the opportunity to connect with many of you as you register for camp. Supporting all of that work at Wildwood is Mass Audubon, an organization which continues to lead the way in inspiring nature heroes of all ages.

Kris Scopinich, Mass Audubon’s Director of Education, is leading the search for Wildwood’s next director. She has reminded me that Mass Audubon will call upon its far-ranging and deep connections with many camps and environmental and educational organizations to find a great director for Wildwood. The search, which has already begun, will be nationwide, and will likely include both internal and external candidates.  I am confident that Mass Audubon will find a director who will embrace the spirit of Wildwood, and lead the camp forward. If you have comments or questions, or would simply like to chat, please be in touch with Kris. She would be happy to hear from you and can be reached at kscopinich@massaudubon.org and 781-259-2122.

Connecting with so many of you and hearing about the positive impact camp has had on you and your family has been the greatest joy of my work here at Wildwood. I hope you will join me in continuing to support Wildwood and its mission of connecting campers with nature.  My deepest and most sincere thanks to all of you. I hope our paths will cross again.

Best,

Welch Signature

 

 

Welch

Welch and Campers

International Counselor Interview #3: Matt

This is Part 3 of a 3-part blog series. In August 2016, we sat down with three of our international staff members—Karim, Ness, and Matt—to hear what they had to say about Wildwood: the challenges and rewards of being a staff member, their favorite camp activities (Spoiler Alert: they all love the waterfront!), and what makes Wildwood so special.

Don’t miss a story! Subscribe to the Word from Wildwood blog to be notified when these and future blog stories are posted.


2016 Wildwood Camp Counselor Matt

What is your name?

Hi, I’m Matt.

Where are you from?

I’m from England, from a city near Nottingham which is basically the middle of the country.

What is your job title and how long have you been with Wildwood?

I started out in 2014 as a counselor in Abbey (13-14-year-old boys) but this year I’m the Waterfront Director. This is my third summer here.

What brought you to Wildwood?

Basically, there are companies across Europe, as well as England, which send you out to work in different countries. Most of them do nannying—the au pair thing—but there are quite a few companies which do camps. There’s all different types of agencies within England just for the Camps. They all have similar aims but they all do different things for you.

So basically, you do a 15-20 page application form, just with the company, not with Mass Audubon. You do three references, police check, medical check, a few other things, and they mainly want to sponsor your visa and make sure that you are suitable for camp, there for the correct reasons, that you have the correct life experience.

So, once you do that, you have a couple of interviews—a phone interview and a face-to-face interview—with the agency itself. From there, once you’re [determined to be] up to the UK Standard, they send it off to the American parent company where they double-check it, and if you’re up to their standards, they’ll put you onto the national database.

I got very lucky. I got put on the database around 4:00 or 5:00 am and later that morning I was contacted by Wildwood for an interview, saying “We read your application and we’re really interested in offering you an interview. Would you be interested?” I said yes. That was arranged for a few days later, so we did the interview over Skype and then later that evening I was offered the job. It was a very quick process, and even camp leaders said it was abnormal for it be that quick of a process, so I was very fortunate and very lucky to have that happen.

What keeps you coming back each year?

My first summer was such a shock for the first week or two, but after that, it was like a magical experience. Last year was really good, but nothing really beats the first year, in a way. It’s like, “Wow, I’m in America! Wow, this is great! Wow, wow, wow!” There’s nothing like this in the UK. There’s such a strong community bond and you feel like one big family. So, that’s why I came back in 2015 for a second year, I just wanted to experience that again. And that was such a great summer, last year. There was such a great dynamic between all the staff members.

And it’s nice to see how the kids progress, as well, when you get to know certain kids that come back every year. We’re only here for 3-4 months, so it’s not really that long, but when you’re sleeping, eating, working, days off together, you build a great connection with other staff members. And probably half the people I’ve talked to throughout the years are foreign which, three years ago, I thought would never happen, but just through the connections I’ve made here, I’ve got a friend in Columbia, Hungary, one who’ll be going to Spain soon, Scotland, Wales, America obviously, England, and Ireland.

So I’ve got these great connections over the three years, and 2014-2015 New Year’s Eve, some of us met up from camp and spent New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day together. They’re really lasting friendships.

What has been the most challenging?

I feel like the hardest part, when it comes to camp, is probably the first 2-3 weeks, which I try to explain to people. But once you’re really into camp, it doesn’t necessarily come easier, but you kind of know where you are and what your job is, so it’s not as mentally draining.

What’s been the most rewarding?

This is my third summer, so I’ve been able to see kids for not just a week but for two weeks and see them develop over the years.

My first year, I was with the 13-14-year-old boys and in that year, they’re either leaving camp or going on to LITs (Leaders-in-Training), so the ones who are here now are potentially going on to JCs (Junior Counselors) next year. To see them go from campers to leaders and potentially going on to be counselors—it’s just great to see that transition and it’s so great to actually see them grow. Especially the oldest units, the ones I’ve had the most contact with, it’s great to see them develop.

You build a lot of special bonds. They almost become…not your friends as such, but like your younger brother or younger sister.

What drew you to want to be a camp counselor?

Mainly I came over here for the experience and to prove that I could do it, and to come and learn leadership skills. I was interested in working in another country and building confidence or the type of skills I may not have had previously. In some ways, three months can be quite a long time, but in other ways, it’s quite short. If I don’t like it, I don’t have to keep doing it; if I do like it, I can consider doing it again. So I was going into it very open-minded.

A lot of people were saying, “Yeah, just go for it. You get to work in America.” I used to work with a girl who had previously done it, after she finished university back in England, and she said, “Oh, you’d be really suited to work in America, to work at camp. You’d really enjoy it.”

I felt like, coming over here, I was coming for a purpose, to make a difference; I was doing something positive. Because usually, back home, in the UK, normal things to do for [people in their] late teens and early twenties are going on a girls’ or lads’ holiday, where they just go somewhere for a week holiday, and you’re not really doing anything, so it’s sort of wasteful in a way, not doing anything positive.

What is your favorite Wildwood activity?

I’d have to say the waterfront but because I’m down here nearly every day [as the Waterfront Director], I probably take it too much for granted. But when I’m away from it, back at home, and I look at the photos of it, I’m like, “Wow, I miss it.”

And it seems to me like my favorite activity is when we’re doing sailing [with the kids] because I can go out on the motorboat and the feeling of being on the motorboat, just going down the middle [of the pond], first thing in the morning around 9:00 or 9:15 when it’s nice and cool, I can’t do that anywhere else.

What are some of the things that make Wildwood special?

In general, this is quite a small camp, which I think some people prefer. And it’s not competitive. We can make it competitive, in some of the activities that we do, but as a camp, it’s very chill, laid-back, you can go at your own pace, you develop in your own time. If you wish to learn a bit more in-depth what that tree is, you can go and do that, but if you’re not too bothered and just want to be outside and admire it, that’s okay as well.

But the main thing that stuck out to me in the first place, in 2014 when I started, was the community spirit. You know, you get counselors that come back for many years, and in many ways, you felt privileged just to accept the interview, the opportunity.

The main thing is just getting kids outside, away from all the video games, and just making it so simple that you can just be outside, enjoying nature, without even realizing it. A simple example is playing soccer: we play it on the field, surrounded by trees, you’re outside, socializing and getting that confidence and self-esteem just by talking to other people.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering coming from overseas to work at Wildwood, what would it be?

I’d say just be open-minded. It’s not easy. You’ve got to realize that you have to be “on” 24-hours a day, 6 days a week, but it’s also a lot of fun. The first two weeks are the hardest and then you really start to enjoy yourself.

The staff members have a special bond, like the last couple of years, I met up with a group of people for New Year’s Eve. I wouldn’t do that in my “real” job back at home. And when you meet up, the only thing you really talk about is camp, because you just get so many stories from camp each day; you don’t realize how many stories you get until you finish camp.

And nobody understands, apart from the people here. You can try to explain it back at home, but they don’t get the full realization.

International Counselor Interview #2: Ness

This is Part 2 of a 3-part blog series. In August 2016, we sat down with three of our international staff members—Karim, Ness, and Matt—to hear what they had to say about Wildwood: the challenges and rewards of being a staff member, their favorite camp activities (Spoiler Alert: they all love the waterfront!), and what makes Wildwood so special.

Don’t miss a story! Subscribe to the Word from Wildwood blog to be notified when these and future blog stories are posted.


2016 Wildwood Camp Counselor Ness


What is your name?

I’m Ness.

Where are you from?

London, England.

What is your job title and how long have you been at Wildwood?

I’m a counselor in Carson Unit, with the 9-10-year-old girls. This is my first year.

What’s been challenging for you?

The confusion of what I was coming out to do. I did speak to Matt [a third-year international counselor] before coming out here, so he kind of helped me. Also, just getting used to the activities—how the activities run, how you do it and how the kids react, and all of that.

What’s been the most rewarding?

Seeing the children come out of their shells from the first day when they arrive, then seeing them at the end and they don’t want to go home and they’re looking forward to coming back next year. It feels nice to know that they feel so settled and they’ve enjoyed their time.

What made you want to become a camp counselor?

I’ve got experience back home working with children, so I just wanted to experiment with different ages. I was looking at camps for preschoolers, because that’s the age I worked with back home, but then I got the idea, “Let’s give a different age group a go, let’s see how this works.” And also I wanted a different kind of summer experience, because every summertime I’m child-minding for parents that work during the summer holidays and I take charge of the house and the children and I just wanted to change it up. I wanted to have a group of them, not just a few kids, and have the activities there, on-hand. At camp, they have that all there for you.

What is your favorite Wildwood activity?

For me, it’s the waterfront. I never had the chance back home to do kayaking or canoeing, and coming out here and being able to do all this has been the highlight of my summer.

What do you think makes Wildwood special?

It’s all of the nature here, all of the stuff that’s here for the kids, all around us.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering coming from overseas to work at Wildwood, what would it be?

I’d say just do it. Go for it, because if you’re even thinking about it, it’s something you should do. It’s going to be something to look back on and smile at.

International Counselor Interview #1: Karim

This is Part 1 of a 3-part blog series. In August 2016, we sat down with three of our international staff members—Karim, Ness, and Matt—to hear what they had to say about Wildwood: the challenges and rewards of being a staff member, their favorite camp activities (Spoiler Alert: they all love the waterfront!), and what makes Wildwood so special.

Don’t miss a story! Subscribe to the Word from Wildwood blog in the signup box on this page to be notified when these and future blog stories are posted.


2016 Wildwood Camp Counselor Karim

What is your name?

My name’s Karim.

Where are you from?

I’m from Liverpool, England.

What is your job title and how long have you been at Wildwood?

I am the Thoreau Unit Leader, which is the 11-12-year-old boys. This is my first year at Wildwood. My first year in America, as well.

What made you want to become a camp counselor?

To be honest, when I left high school I wanted to do it, but I wasn’t old enough to because I was 16 (we leave high school at 16). My teachers always advised me to do it, because they said I’d enjoy it, and then a guy I’d only known a few weeks suggested it, too. I’d never really had the guts to do it but I always wanted to try it, so I ended up thinking, “You know what? Now is the time to do it. Time to try something different.” Because I was at a boring job I thought, “I want to have more fun with my summers and with my experience,” so I tried it, and now I’m here. Pretty crazy, right?

What has been the most challenging?

The most challenging thing has just been adapting to camp life. When I first got here, I just wanted to go home because it was just so frightening at first, and I struggle with anxiety and self-confidence, so the biggest challenge for me was to force myself to stick it out.

We write letters at the beginning of the summer to our future self to open at the end of camp, and at the time I was feeling really down, but I wrote in the letter, “I’m so happy you didn’t give up.” And I was sticking to that word, so I wasn’t going to give up. That was honestly the most challenging thing.

What has been the most rewarding?

There are so many things. One of the things that really made me happy was just connecting with children like you didn’t think you could, because they’re a lot older than you think. They know so much more than you think. The kids in my unit know so much more than I did when I was 11 or 12, so the most rewarding thing is getting on their level and realizing they’re on your level, in the same terms. They start to really trust you and put their faith in you and then you become really good friends. And when you’re here, they shout your name and run up and give you hugs and that just feels good.

What’s your favorite Wildwood activity?

I feel like I’m having the most fun at the waterfront, especially because we don’t get to see these kinds of views all the time. I’ve only been kayaking once before in my life and now I’ve done it multiple times, so definitely, for me, it’s doing anything on the waterfront—that’s the most fun. It’s something that we can’t get back home.

What are some of the things that make Wildwood special?

The people, 100%. The people you meet here, 110%. And that includes everyone—Meredith, Welch, the program staff, JC’s, even the returning campers who come here as well, to me that’s what makes Wildwood Wildwood.

But besides that, hmm, it’s tough to whittle it down to one point. The place is amazing, too. I love how they focus a lot on nature. And I feel like it’s the approach to nature.

I only just realized this now as I’m picking at the dirt under my nails and I’m not bothered; back at home I’d be like, “Oh my god, my fingernails are so dirty!” But here you don’t care because you’re digging in the dirt and you’re looking for things in the dirt and teaching kids to do that and there’s so many bugs and it teaches kids not to be afraid of bugs anymore. That’s what makes Wildwood Wildwood as well, is how “in nature” it is, or how much it teaches kids to respect nature, but learn how to live in nature and with nature.

I had this realization yesterday that I’m going to go home and talk about camp all the time, until everyone’s sick of it.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering coming from overseas to be a counselor at Wildwood, what would it be?

Just do it. In life, you always hear people say, “You won’t regret it,” but it’s like, “How do you know I won’t? How can you guarantee me?” There’s no guarantee…but I just know you won’t. I’m so happy I came to this place. You learn so much, and you learn so much about yourself—that’s the most important thing.

Words from a Wildwood Counselor

Our counselors are an essential part of the Wildwood camp experience. On any given day, you’ll likely see staff leading campers in song, keeping a watchful eye on swimmers in Hubbard Pond, and performing wacky skits around the campfire.

ian

What makes the counselor’s role so special is that for the one or two weeks a camper is here, he or she acts as caretaker, teacher, role model, and—perhaps most importantly—a friend.

We chatted with Ian, who has worked as a Wildwood counselor for four years, and asked him to tell us about his experience. Originally from Amherst, MA, Ian was a Wildwood camper before he became a counselor.

What’s your favorite thing about being a counselor at Wildwood?

It amazes me every year that at the end of one or two weeks, campers leave wanting to stay in touch with kids they’ve just met and have managed to form a strong connection with. I strongly believe that we are strengthened by our communities, and at Wildwood, the campers and counselors mirror each other in the joy they find by waking up in the environment alongside each other.

Tell us more about that sense of connection and community at Wildwood.

The connection Wildwood campers feel comes through in the amount of campers I see return year after year, growing and finding new value in their camp community each summer. As a staff member, the community is there, too! Spending 11 weeks in the woods with 30 other counselors might sound crazy, but every year the staff never fails to be a loving, supportive system dedicated to creating an unforgettable summer for the campers.

What’s one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a counselor?

At Wildwood, the counselors are given the opportunity to create the programs they want to lead, as well as taking ownership over existing programs and bringing their own spin or expertise to them. Working well with other counselors, planning experiential and informative programming, and generating real enthusiasm calls upon the use of a lot of skills. I’m pleased to say that it gets done very successfully and consistently with myself and other counselors!

Looking Ahead to 2016 Wildwood Camp

Each year we take the quiet days of autumn to reflect on the programs from the previous summer, and look for opportunities to provide programming that best meets the needs and interests of our camp families. This past fall has been no different as we took a close look at our Leaders-In-Training and Trek programs and have made some exciting adjustments based on your feedback.

Teens in the Woods

Teens love exploring the wilds of New England!

Returning in summer 2016 is the much-requested 3-week program for second-year Leaders-In-Training! After the past couple of years of 2-week sessions for that group, we realized those teens (and their staff leaders) would really benefit from an extra week to take part in more advanced programs. We are calling this session “Leaders-In-Action” and it will include a longer and more involved off-camp trip, as well as the opportunity to develop and implement an on-camp service project from beginning to end. Applications for that program were sent out directly to previous LIT and Trek participants. If you weren’t a camper in 2015 or didn’t receive the application, no problem! Contact the office to request a copy of the Leaders-In-Action application. Leaders-In-Action are 16 years old and/or entering 11th grade in fall of 2016. Space in this program will be limited and applications received by January 1, 2016 will be considered together.

mooseinalder

Moose and plenty of other wildlife await teens in the Great North Woods!

In the Trek program, we have heard from many families that they are interested in a longer Trek option for teens seeking a more in-depth experience. A longer program gives the group a chance to develop stronger connections and explore the region further. This year, we are debuting a very exciting 2-week trip for teens who have participated previously in a Wildwood Trek. The new Trek is called “Discovering the Great North Woods” and has teens exploring the northern tip of New Hampshire where wildlife outnumbers people! Check out that Trek and other opportunities today on our program catalog.

Thank you to everyone who joined us at camp in 2015 and we’re so excited to make 2016 the best yet!

Wildwood – Summer 2015 Looking Back (and ahead to 2016!)

It is hard to believe that it has been about a month since the last day of the 2015 Wildwood summer camp season. We are so fortunate to have finished off the season with an incredibly strong Family Camp 3, and a very positive staff send-off.

In total, we served over 550 campers with fun and rewarding experiences in our Overnight, Leaders-In-Training, and Teen Adventure Trip programs and 50 families at Family Camp! It has been an amazing few years for us at Wildwood as enrollment numbers and enthusiasm for the program have continued to grow. We believe that camps like Wildwood, where campers can escape from technology and learn to appreciate the connections between people and nature, are more important than ever.

Some highlights from this summer include:

  • A new food service partnership with Sodexo, whose hard work received great reviews from campers and staff!
  • The addition of three new Treks for teens looking for more outdoor adventures!
  • The Leaders-In-Training developed and facilitated a service project to create a new outdoor education area for activity groups. This new spot, dubbed “Whitman’s Woods”, was incredibly popular and used by many IGs and DGs!
  • New IGs like “Forensics”, provided campers fun new ways to learn and connect with nature and the outdoors.

Sign-Up Information for 2016

We are in the process of finalizing the 2016 summer camp calendar. In November the camp dates will be available online and the sessions will be open for registration. All registrations completed before January 15th will be at the early-bird discounted rate!

Be sure to subscribe to this blog on the right-hand side of the page to be notified of new posts so that you can stay up to date on Wildwood news. You can also go to our homepage and subscribe to our e-news which is a monthly email newsletter full of news and information about Wildwood. If you’re looking for a chance to visit Wildwood outside of the summer, visit the Wildwood Program Catalog for a of listing of our year-round public programs.

Wildwood 2015 is on it’s way!

A bald eagle visitin Wildwood on our last day of ice on Hubbard Pond!

A bald eagle visiting Wildwood on our last day of ice on Hubbard Pond!

The final weeks before the start of camp season are here and it’s a great time to look ahead to what’s in store for this summer. The first two weekends in May we welcomed over eighty people to Wildwood for two open house events. These open houses are a great way to get to know camp better before your camp session and to ask Wildwood staff any questions you have about what to expect in a camp session.

If you missed the open house events and you’re already registered for camp, please check out the Parent Resources section of our website for lots of information about preparing for your camp experience.

Consider a Trek!

This summer is a big season for our Teen Adventure Trip program. We are offering several new options for teens to get a taste of adventure in unique places around New England. The Caves and Waterfalls trip has been so popular that we’ve decided to add another! A few spaces are available for that trip which takes place from July 12 – July 18. Those spaces are filling fast so sign up today! Meredith

Welcome Meredith!

Wildwood is excited to see Meredith Dean back with us full time as our new Program Coordinator!  You can say hi to her on our Facebook Page!

Recruiting Great Staff

wwoffice

The Wildwood team hard at work!

The Wildwood office has been humming over the last few weeks now that both Chris and Lisa are in the office working hard full-time to fill camper and staff slots. It turns out that sharing a small office is easy when everyone works so well together!

We’ve found that many people who call in are curious as to how we find such amazing staff to take on all of the different roles that make camp so special for our campers each summer. The truth is it takes a lot of time and effort to recruit and hire as many as 40 summer seasonal staff in roles including cabin counselors, kitchen assistants, unit leaders, program area directors, trek leaders, and more. These folks come to us from a variety of places, often with a wealth of prior experience with either camp or a similar child enrichment programs.

Elissa helping a camper discover what she's found while ponding.

Elissa helping a camper discover life in the pond.

The most important thing we consider when hiring new staff is whether or not these individuals are ready for the most important job in the world—caring for kids. Our most successful summer staff are those who understand the positive impact they can make on the life of our campers. We also look for staff who show a passion for the nature and the outdoors. Many of our staff each summer are undergraduate or graduate students who’ve studied Environmental Science, Biology, Conservation and other fields relating to what we do at Wildwood and Mass Audubon.

If you or someone you know is interested in being a role model for campers this summer, check out the complete listing of Wildwood jobs at massaudubon.org/jobs under the Wildwood sanctuary tab. Some positions are still available for Summer 2014 but are filling quickly so act fast!