Each year, we gather at Oxford College for Georgia Teen Institute (GTI), our summer youth leadership program for Youth Action Teams throughout Georgia. At the heart of this program is, without a doubt, the youth and adult volunteers who make up our staff. GTI would not be possible without these hardworking and dedicated staff members. They run Family Groups, facilitate Team Meetings, keep our participants energized and entertained and make it all come together behind the scenes.
It takes a lot from our staff to ensure our program is successful. We have to come together as a dynamic and powerful team, but we know that it starts with exceptional individuals. Camp staff have the potential to make a huge difference by changing lives, helping to solve problems and impacting communities. It’s important for us to not only look for outstanding individuals to join our staff each year, but also give our staff members knowledge and tools to help them grow.
Below, we identify five qualities of great camp staff from our experience over the years. For each quality, one of our GTI Youth or Young Adult Staff members shares what it looks like in our program, why it is important and tips for growth.
Great camp staff are…
“A good staff member embodies flexibility when they have the ability to adapt when things do not go as planned. It is very easy to get a bad attitude when plans have to change, but sometimes at GTI we might have plans for something fun, and simple things like the rain may cause a change in plans. The GTI staff should be able to keep a positive attitude that everything will be okay and that the change could be just as or even more fun than the previous plans! My only tip for others is to always think about the bright side of being adaptable: everything always happens for reason and there is always a rainbow once the rain stops!” – Phebe, GTI 2020 Youth Staff
“As a GTI Staff member, it is important that we arrive to TI knowing our material, in order to give the participants a greater level of awareness and understanding. Preparation looks different for every GTI staff member—not one person exactly learns the same as another. It is important that a staff member, as an individual, can find a way they can better understand and approach the material. Whether it’s color-coding your facilitator guides or actually practicing the procedures; it’s all preparation— an important component of leadership. At GTI, staff members are leaders enlisted to encourage leadership among others. Our preparation shows participants that we care. It shows them that we care not only about them but what we’re all trying to accomplish: community change.” – Gabbie, GTI 2020 Youth Staff
“Learning to effectively make connections is such an important soft skill one is able to exercise at GTI. At TI, participants see the same staffers over the duration of the program in places like Free Time, Connection Groups and Family Groups. I think the purpose of connecting or family-making is defeated if by day four there are participants who haven’t been directly addressed by their staffer. I understand not everyone is outgoing and ready to sit at a table with 15 people they’ve never seen before. So, one conscious way to make a connection (no matter the personality) is to try working on addressing every person you come in contact with by name!” – Destiny, GTI 2020 Young Adult Staff
POSITIVE ROLE MODELS
“A good staff member embodies being a positive role model by being adaptable and keeping a positive image. Being a positive role model is important at Georgia Teen Institute is because you never know who is watching you and what type of impact you are making on someone’s life. A tip I have to ensure you have this quality is being yourself!” – Jamir, GTI 2020 Young Adult Staff
WILLING TO GIVE 100%
“Giving 100% at GTI means that you’re always willing to help out. If you don’t have an assignment during Free Time, you can go to Command Central and ask if you can help with anything. Giving 100% is important at GTI because the days are long, so if you start out the day only giving 50% then you’ll be worn out by the end of the day. Remember that you shouldn’t compare your 100% to someone else’s 100% as long as you know you’re giving it your all.” – Jalyn, GTI 2020 Young Adult Staff