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HomeSummer StaffBeing on Staff

200pixpic069To answer the question, "How will I make a difference this summer in the life of a child?", you only need to look as far as Camp Starfish. And, the campers aren't the only ones who grow at camp. As a member of the staff team at Starfish, you'll have an opportunity to meet and work with people who have a diverse range of experiences and who come from many different cultures and backgrounds. There are unlimited opportunities to learn, make friends, build connections for your future, and of course, help emotionally-, behaviorally-, socially- and learning-challenged children to have the summer of their lives!  

At Starfish, we care about each of our staff members as individuals. That's why we set you up in a mentoring group (we call them Torchgroups) and help you find the right role at camp. We encourage you to check out the info below and learn more about our pre-camp staff training (you'll be so ready when the kids get here!), our internship and certification opportunities (earn academic credit for your paid work at Camp Starfish!) and how we ensure that you have the supervision and the support you need to do your best work on behalf of the kids at camp.

If you think you're ready for a summer of fun at Camp Starfish, apply now!  

Learn more about Being On Staff by clicking on any of the categories below:

Who Are our Staff?

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Starfish summer staff are interns and students who represent more than 100 professional fields of study. Some of the most popular are Special Education, Social Work, Psychology, Behavior Analysis (ABA), Youth Development, Therapeutic Recreation, General Education, Human/Family Services, Mental Health Counseling, Phys Ed, Music/Art Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy. Many of our alumni have gone on to careers in these fields and credit Starfish for getting their foot in the door or for teaching them skills they continue to use in their daily work. 
You do not need to be studying one of these things - or studying anything - to work at Starfish. However, for those who are interested, we offer internship and fellowship opportunities which can help you accumulate credits towards a relevant degree. 
Check out any of these pages from our Staff Guide to learn more about our alumni! 


The Camper-Staff Bond

200pixpic046The connection between campers and staff at Starfish is one of our most powerful tools. Mature, professional, and well-trained staff bring a dedication and enthusiasm to the role of camp counseling that is unparalleled. Campers know that staff don't yell or raise their voice, always answer questions, are happy to listen anytime, will be there to tuck them in at night, and are solid partners in their camp journey. Likewise, staff return year after year to help campers continue their progress and spend time with children who teach them more about themselves as adults than any other life experience.
Longtime Starfish staff member Melissa says: "My hero wears Velcro sneakers. He's 4 ft 8, laughs at my jokes even when they're not funny, and when he smiles my soul shines. He is my modern day superman. His personality can destroy the brick walls of stereotypes and his greatest superpower is that when I am with him, I automatically become a better person. My hero is one of my campers at Starfish. At Starfish, I grow, I change, and I believe in myself, all while teaching children to do the same. I bring out the hero in children who may have low self-esteem. I bring out the star athlete in the children who are often picked last in gym class. I bring out the achiever in children who struggle academically. Some people say, 'Melissa, those children are so lucky to have you to help them.' I disagree. Through each child I help, I become a hero, I become an achiever, but most importantly I become more grateful. Grateful that I have made a difference in their lives, but more so for the difference they have made in mine."

One-to-One Ratio

200pixpic062Always means always. We're one-to-one, all the time, always. That doesn't mean including maintenance staff and directors, either. We have one specialist (campers call them "counselors") for every camper, plus a team of 16+ leadership and supervisory staff (called administrators or "admin" for short), plus our directors, plus our nurse and support staff. Why?

It's not because every single one of our campers needs that amount of supervision or support minute-to-minute. But many of them do need the flexibility it provides - such as the ability to have a counselor and an administrator be able to stay back with a camper having a hard time making the transition to the next activity...while allowing the rest of the group to move on. Why not just ask everyone to wait? Well, perhaps that camper might need a few minutes to talk things through. Maybe another member of the group gets anxious waiting around when he's been assured that the group is leaving to get to swimming and worries about being late or missing out. Most importantly, for the safety of campers and staff, we're never alone with kids. There's always a second set of eyes and ears around to offer a helping hand.

And, while not every camper needs one-to-one, they all benefit from it in many ways. We believe that being able to give each camper positive attention and engagement at all times eliminates the need for behaviors based on negative attention-seeking, and allows us to quickly and effectively get to work on other behavior and goals. We also realize and capitalize on the fact that campers make solid, fast bonds with staff (and vice versa!) which opens their minds to hearing feedback and making changes - because the suggestions and assistance comes from someone they're working hard to impress! We're not one-on-one, so campers aren't assigned one staff member that's "theirs" for the session. In fact, they have a different staff member as their free-play buddy every day, staff they eat with, bunk staff, activity staff, etc. But they know no matter what, there's an ear to listen to them, and a hand to hold. That's why we're 1:1.

The Starfish Way

B200pix32The Starfish way is all about making Camp Starfish a safe, supportive place to "learn, grow and have fun." Everything at Starfish is specifically geared to meet the needs and abilities of each bunk, activity group, and individual child. Staff consistently seek innumerable ways to provide campers with positive reinforcement while helping them to recognize and articulate their strengths. At Starfish, we believe in "catching children being good" and capitalizing on those experiences as teachable moments, in addition to setting up therapeutic supports to help children during times when they are struggling.
The Starfish Way is based, amongst other things, on the ideas that:
  • Children are able to do well when the environment is designed to enable success
  • Regardless of their challenges, all children deserve to see themselves as valuable and valued individuals
  • The role of adults in the camp environment is to help campers find and enjoy success
  • Providing structured, nurturing and fun programs will allow children to grow in positive ways, and
  • Engaging campers in a variety of well-structured traditional summer camp activities in a safe and predictable environment will allow them to build skills, self-confidence, self-esteem and self-direction. 
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We primarily implement the Starfish Way through the use of our unique Strategies, Tools and Keys.
200pixpic018The Strategies are a guiding group of principles that we use while working with the young people entrusted to our care. These simple, yet powerfully effective concepts form the basis of our behavior management philosophy, our daily structure and schedule, and the reason why we are able to set campers up for such great success. Upon first reading the Strategies, they appear deceptively simple. The key, and what makes Starfish such a unique place, is an entire group of people actively using these skills and ideas in their daily work with children. "Engage campers. Provide time. Allow campers to take space. Catch children being good..." Each of the more than 50 Strategies fall into one of the following categories: Strengthen Children's Self-Esteem, Empower Children, Demonstrate Compassion to Children, Create a Safe Environment, Communicate with Children Deliberately & Proactively, and Create a Positive Learning Environment.


The Tools are the values of Camp Starfish. 200pixpic034They outline coping skills and personal intentions, and by teaching them, staff are able to help campers put behaviors and feelings into context. All camp rules are based on a tool, for example, and you will often hear staff using the tools to help calm escalated campers: "I think your painting looks great! You put so much effort into it and that really shows. Remember here we don't have to be the best...just try our best. Hey, I bet that would look great hanging up in the bunk next to your goals chart." There are both community tools (those values that affect interactions with others) and individual tools (those values which are based on internal coping mechanisms). Tools are integrated all over camp - from the Tool of the Day (which is used at each activity and acted out by the Tools Team at morning Gathering), to the Garden of Tools where campers can relax, smell the flowers, and just think for a while about the small signs around you.

Download the Starfish Tools to hang up at home or bring  to school!


A200pix14The Keys are a set of social skills which we aim for every child to learn and work on during his/her time at camp, and then continue developing after camp. Difficulty relating to peers is one of the top factors that affect a child’s self-esteem and identity. While Starfish campers come to camp from wide variety of backgrounds with many different challenges that they face, one thing that most of them have in common is that they have a hard time making or keeping friends.The Keys include concepts such as using manners and positive interaction with others, approaching others in social acceptable ways, asking for permission rather than acting, sharing toys/materials, maintaining eye contact during introductions, and more. Our daily "Key of the Day" is presented by our camper-led Keys Club, which acts out the Key in a skit and then shows good ways to use the Key at camp. Staff diligently capitalize on teachable moments to show when social skills are "caught" in action.

In these ways and more, the Starfish Way makes camp a positive, safe place where campers are actively participating in things they enjoy. We help children learn what it means to be accountable for their choices through positive feedback and without embarrassment, enabling them make more productive choices in the future. The Starfish way is all about making Camp Starfish is a place to "learn, grow and have fun."

Certifications, Internships & Fellowships


By the completion of staff training, you will have amassed enough experience and learning hours to become certified as a Level I Care Specialist. As you work through the summer you may also choose to gain your Level II Care Specialist certification, which comes with a bonus and opens up opportunity for potential leadership roles on the team.

Opportunities are also available before camp (arrival a few days prior to staff training is required) for additional certifications such as lifeguarding, boating safety, first aid and CPR. Depending on your role, we may also send you to a certification course for wilderness first aid, emergency response, or other camp skills. We promise that you'll leave camp in August with new and enhanced skills that will easily transfer to future jobs & schoolwork. Your certifications go with you and many staff find great additional work opportunities lifeguarding or teaching swim lessons back home during the school year. 



Internship Credit 
Whether you are looking to grow personally or develop marketable skills for the corporate or professional world, work at Camp Starfish will prepare you for almost anything! Internship programs are available for college credit in many different disciplines. In previous summers, staff with majors in Social Work, Recreation, Sports Science, Wilderness Leadership, Psychology, Education, Business Management and many other subjects were able to spend the summer having fun at camp while still working towards their degree! 

If you join our team as an intern, you will automatically be placed in our Interns Seminar that meets online twice before camp, and once weekly in person at camp, designed to ensure you complete your requirements in style. Our leadership staff and directors are committed to helping make sure you get the most out of your internship opportunity. If you are planning to use your time at camp to gain internship credit, we strongly recommend that you speak with your advisor, etc. to determine the necessary steps to apply for credit at your particular institution. We will work with you and the school to make sure the right forms are filled out, but as every school is different we rely on you to guide the process.  We also recommend you apply as early as possible to give both you and us enough time to get everything organized. 


st200 01Fellowships
We offer a limited number of spaces on our team to individuals interested in making an extended commitment to Starfish from the get-go. The Fellowship program consists of a first summer on the team, during which we will work with you to develop a funded project that you will take on over the course of the following year, coordinated from wherever you attend school or work. Fellows local to the Starfish year-round office in Massachusetts are welcome to pursue projects which assist with our local enrollment, recruitment and fundraising work. Fellows are invited to join us for a Fellows Conference in the spring where professionals representing agencies and job opportunities will be available to meet and talk with you about your future interests. Then, when you return for your second summer, you will take on a leadership role at camp. In addition, you will be a Mentor for first-year Fellows. You will implement your project at camp, help lead staff training, guide new Fellows through their summer, and assist in leading our Intern Seminar. The commitment you are making if you apply to this program is for one summer, including two online meetings prior to camp, then an “independent study” style project (with support from our year-round directors), followed by a second summer of camp. Fellows are considered first for advancement opportunities that arise on the summer team and where possible, are invited to represent Starfish for campus recruiting events across the country. Additional credit for fieldwork and independent study may be available depending on your school’s requirements.


A200pix19The tradition of staff Torchgroups began at Starfish in 2006 and has quickly become one of the most eagerly anticipated parts of our annual staff training. Torchgroups offer an opportunity for every staff member to participate in a small mentoring group during their introduction to Starfish. The specific “torch” concept was born out of the idea that each group leader is passing on his/her knowledge and love of Camp Starfish to new staff (carrying the torch forward each summer). 

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The names of the torch groups were meticulously chosen to represent attributes that we, as a camp, value in our staff team and camp community. Every summer the current Administrators (our "torchbearers") choose which torch they think best suits their passions and strengths. The Torchgroups include: Leadership, Enthusiasm, Honor and Integrity, Belief and Empowerment, Respect, Community, Patience, Compassion, Fun and Safety, Dedication, Friendship, and Acceptance.

Every staff member is randomly placed into one of the Torchgroups at the beginning of staff training. Led by your Torchbearer, your small group of 6-8 staff will get to know each other through additional teambuilders and small-group discussions. Your Torchbearer is a returning staff member, so they'll be able to answer your questions. Torchgroups meet again during Intersession trainings, and your Torchbearer will check in with you regularly during the summer to see how everything is going.

torchgames logoThe Torchgroup Games, a friendly competition amongst Torchgroups, lasts throughout staff training; trophies include the "Barrel of Monkeys," the "Photo Finish," and the "Light it Up" amongst others. Many staff proudly display their trophies during the summer. Throughout training, there are plenty of opportunities for your Torchgroup to earn points, including trivia challenges, relays, spirit, and role play participation. Opening Ceremony for the Games is held on the first night of training. 



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Job Descriptions

st200 13Our front-line staff are Specialists(campers will know you as "counselors") who live in a cabin with children and help campers have the best possible experience, which includes the basic functions of providing behavior management support, working with goals, and guiding campers through their stay. All Specialists live in cabins with children, helping ensure their time at camp is beneficial and growth-oriented. During the day, campers participate in activities and staff are spread out in several roles across camp which facilitate this. 

During your application and interview process, you will be asked what role(s) you are interested in, and have the opportunity to share your skills and relevant experience with our directors. Roles generally fall into 1 of 2 “tracks,” Camp Life or Program. Regardless of track, all first year staff receive the training, hands-on work, mentoring, and experience that can result in their Level I Care Specialist Certification.

Camp Life Track
Our Camp Life Track include the roles that focus on helping children experience the camp day. These staff move around camp with their campers, attending various activities, acting as 1:1 supports as necessary, and ensuring campers transition safely and smoothly between tasks and areas. They are also responsible for incorporating the specific aspect of our various groups' expeirences.


Group Specialists
Group Specialists accompany a group of campers in a particular age group through all their daily activities. Responsibilities include encouraging camper participation, helping campers who may require additional time or explanation, supporting campers who may require extra attention, and implementation/monitoring of individualized behavioral plans. There are several different groups, each of which varies a bit in their daily pursuits:

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Residential Group Specialists work with our campers who are participating in our core overnight camp experience: 7-13 year-old Navigators and 14-16 year-old Older Campers and l.e.a.d.e.r.s., all of whom are working on earning Tags (Starfish Merit Badges) during activities and focusing on their individual goals. (Also see Teen specialists, below). 


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  Day Camp Specialists work with campers age 5-13 who are attending our Day Camp program during the day. Day Camp Specialists live with overnight campers and have cabin responsibilities in the evening just like Residential Specialists. Day Camp staff responsibilities include overseeing daily drop-offs and pick-ups, encouraging participation, being enthusiastic about activities, and providing additional support, explanation, or attention to campers. 

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  Teen  Speicalists are positive role models for campers enrolled in any of the Starfish Teen Programs (OCP, l.e.a.d.e.r.s, and S.T.A.R. Corps). These staff participate in leading daily leadership forums and teen topic chats, and help coordinate teen functions both on-site and off-site. The teen programs function with level systems and privilege tiers that help teens build success, and which are managed by their staff in coordination with the Teen Programs Administrator.


  Beachcombers is our trip and travel program for teens. Staff on Beachcombers live at our rustic outdoor camping area, help campers cook meals over the fire, and lead hiking, canoeing and rafting trips on and off camp. This program runs for three weeks. Staff who work with Beachcombers will also work in other Group Specialist capacities for the remainder of the summer. 
  campmnd212 50   Crescent  Specialists are a group of staff who staff programs running on the Crescent side of camp. These include Crescent Cove (a 5-day, 4-night overnight for campers ages 6-9), Sibling Camp (for siblings of our campers), Camp Havvago, and other unique populations who attend camp for shorter periods of time. 
  campmnd212 20   TIDES Specialists, known as "Advisors," live and work with the older teens in our transitional independence program. Advisors guide and mentor teens as they build their work and life skills, including helping to run their own business: a Community Beach Club for local families. 
B200pix55 Camper Services Team (CST) Specialists
CST Specialists work out on camp as Group Specialists as well as behind the scenes, providing support by contacting parents about campers' successes, tracking and awarding TagUp (Starfish merit badges) achievements, monitoring and coordinating goal progress and rewards, taking pictures, making sure campers return home with documentation of their skills growth, and more. 
200pixpic074 Lead Specialistsare experienced staff who are comfortable taking on additional responsibility in the cabin. They are responsible for nightly check-ins with staff, and oversight of bunk structure. During daily activities, Leads work with their Group Specialists to provide support and structure to the activity group as their campers participate in different program areas.

Program Track
Program staff are responsible for the activities, special events, and experiences that make camp such a special place. If you have a particular interest in teaching a specific activity (for example, you're a Martial Arts rockstar or passionate about Athletics) this is the track for you! Program also includes all our waterfront areas. 


Program Instructors  are responsible for the curriculum and teaching of a specific area on camp. They plan lessons and teach a variety of activities within a specific program area (i.e. Arts and Crafts is a program area in which you might teach painting, jewelry making, friendship bracelets, etc.). Instructors lead approximately 3-5 activity periods daily - for Day and Crescent campers, those lessons are one-time projects; for Navigators and older campers, they are taught in multi-day "bundles" which allow deeper exploration of the topics.

Positions for Program Instructors include: Arts-n-Crafts, Music, Dance, Theatre/Drama, Xplore! (nature), Athletics, Discovery (wood working, raft building, etc.), Outdoor Cooking (yum!), Challenge (teambuilding), High Ropes Course (are you belay-certified? Come lead on our brand-new Ropes Course!), Boating, Activate! (gym), Small Animals, Martial Arts, and Learning Center (STEM activities). So much to choose from! 

200pixpic050 Waterfront Staff teach swim lessons and boating instruction, as well as supervise water safety at our three waterfronts. In addition, they lifeguard during activity periods as well as during free swims and camper reward time. Every camper receives a 1:1 swim lesson each day, and waterfront staff may teach anything from first-time swimmers to junior lifeguard levels.

Other Roles

A200pix34Support Staff work to support the running of camp in the areas of health care, food service, maintenance, housekeeping and site safety. Jobs on the support team include kitchen staff, chefs, Healthy House staff (like our camp nurse and Health Assistants), maintenance, housekeeping and office staff.

Administrators are a team of leadership staff whose responsibilities include behavior management, program direction, supervision and logistics management.

Program & Structure

There are a lot of pieces that go into making Starfish's program so unique. You can find out much more about our programs in the "Camps and Programs" section of the website. A few of the most important things to know about are:


"Structure" is something we believe in very strongly at Camp Starfish, because we know children thrive on it! They need routines to help them feel safe in a stable, predictable environment. Plus, our campers learn through repetition. When the campers know what to expect, then they know what to do, and then they can do the right thing and enjoy success. Anxieties are minimized, and so are the resulting behaviors. You can learn more about the Starfish Structure here.



B200pix55Individual Camper Goals

By the time campers arrive at camp, our year-round staff and directors have already received a great deal of background information about goals campers are working on at home, in school, in therapy, and in various other areas. Using this information and one-on-one conversations with campers, cabin staff and the Camper Services Specialists help each child create a set of goals they would like to work towards during the session. Each night, campers go over their goals individually with staff from their cabin. Together, they discuss efforts and specific examples made during the day towards goals, and agree on what number of points should be awarded as campers work towards individual rewards, group Milestones. Read more about Individual Goals here.


200pixpic031Activity Areas

Activities at Starfish are fun - and help children to build individual life skills, stay active, practice the Tools, and improve their social pragmatics. Depending on their enrolled program, campers attend between 3 and 6 activity periods a day, including swim lessons. Specialists travel with campers to assist them in these activities, while Program Instructors run each area. Check out the Activities here. At each activity, campers are able to earn Tags (our version of Merit Badges) in several different levels, across all the years they attend camp. Collecting TagUp Tags is a favorite pasttime of many campers!




Cabin Life

cabin5Starfish cabins are comfortable and rustic, with electricity. Cabin groups are intentionally small - so campers can feel comfortable building social skills without becoming overwhelmed. In all cabins, campers sleep on the bottom bunk with a staff member occupying the top bunk above them. That means even at night, there is an adult just a reach away. The cabins are arranged in a circular "village" which includes a washhouse with toilets, sinks and showers. Campers can easily access bathrooms at night. Staff-on-duty in the bunk will either accompany the camper or watch from the doorway of the cabin (depending on the camper's preference and age), then tuck the camper back in to bed. Cabins have a central floor space for nightly cabin meetings, playing cards and games, dance parties or reading. 

Everyone makes their bed daily as part of cabin clean-up. Each camper and staff member also has an underbed bin and a cubby with shelves to help them organize their clothing and personal belongings. Staff help campers unpack on the first day into their cubbies, and then baggage is stored elsewhere on camp. On the boys side of camp (Fish Village), cabins have 5 bunk beds, and usually five campers. Five staff live in the cabin on top bunks. Additionally, all Fish cabins have at least one female staff member who has housing in a nearby staff-only cabin. On the girls side of camp (Star Village), cabins have 6-7 bunk beds, and usually 5-7 campers. 6-8 staff members live in the cabin on top bunks.

Click to see the layout of Star Village (Girls) cabins or Fish Village (Boys) cabinsA new window will open. 

Life In the Bubble

Whenever you join a new community there are always periods of adjustment. Camp life - at any camp - is no different. Starfish offers a distinctive summer camp experience for staff. Because of camp’s unique nature, staff frequently phrase working/living at camp as “life in the bubble.” There are realities and expectations of a job with Camp Starfish that are integral to the success of the community. So what does it mean to live "life in the bubble?" The idea encompasses many different things, including:


Living and Working in the same place with the same people
At the end of the day, instead of going home to your dorm room or apartment, you go...back to a cabin full of campers and staff. When you go hang out in "staff only" areas on your downtime, you might see the same staff member with whom you just led activities all day. There are opporutnities to get off camp during your time off, of course, but when you are on camp, your work colleagues are also your social group. That can be incredibly supportive and positive, and may also take some getting used to. 


c200 3Privacy comes at a premium
The cabins are beautiful, wooden and rustic, and hold 4-6 staff and 4-6 campers. The bathhouse has showers with private changing areas, and private toilet stalls. However, truly finding "time to yourself" has to be something you intentionally do. That's great news if you like being around people. It can be disconcerting if you need several hours just for you evey day to feel healthy. Taking a walk or run during your time off, or finding a quiet place by the lake to read, are all very viable options. You just might have to prioritize that some days over heading off camp for a coffee on your downtime. 


You're not making your own meals
Camp offers a variety of meals and food options. Just as most camps in the United States, the menu operates on a rotation, meaning that meals will repeat throughout the course of a summer. Chicken is a camp staple. A salad bar, pasta bar and sandwich choice are offered at both lunch and dinner in addition to the main meal that's on the table. Cereal and oatmeal are always available for breakfast. Camp is able to meet reasonable, specific dietary needs (gluten free, vegetarian, lactose free, etc), but in "group style." That means all vegetarians will be offered the "vegetarian option" for a particular meal. Flexibility with food is a must. 

200pixpic007The bubble is dry, drug-free and smoke-free
Yep, the people in this photo are stone cold sober and having fun at camp. Starfish is a non-smoking environment - there is one designated smoking area for staff which can be used only when no children are awake. Otherwise you need to leave camp property to smoke, such as on your downtime. At no time may you be under the influence of alcohol at camp, and staff are expected to adhere to policies surrounding alcohol - including that if you are underage, you will not drink during your employment with us. The safety and security of the kiddos, as well as of your colleagues, comes first in the bubble. Staff joining our team need to be prepared that their social time might be different than it is back home. 

200pixpic089The bubble has wi-fi, but not a lot of time to use it
Technology is awesome, but at camp it doesn’t really exist. Ipods, cell phones, tablets, computers, and other modern technological conveniences don't see the light of day near campers. Staff use these during their period off, evenings when not on duty, and on days off. That means that for the majority of your day, you're not Instagramming or messaging, updating your status or even seeing a minute-by-minute live feed of world news. It can take some getting used to - but most staff find it ultimately to be a very liberating, eye-opening experience to disconnect a little bit and reconnect at your leisure. 


200pixpic024The bubble is the best place in the world
Okay, so, there are some things that take getting used to. But the good news is that inside the bubble, there is also a respect for diversity of all kinds, for good work ethic and for putting the needs of kids who really need you first. There are supportive coworkers and friends, supervisors who've got your back, fun at every turn, water balloons, and carnivals. There are multiple opportunities every day to make an actual difference - something that outside the bubble can take a lot longer and be a lot harder. At the end of the summer, many staff feel a sense of loss as they leave the bubble and return to their off-camp lives (which is why they come back to volunteer on Weekends with the kids)! 

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