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HomeStaffPath to Your Future

campmnd212 39There's never just one way to get where you want to go, so don't let anyone tell you that there's only one path to success. However, Starfish has developed a path that we know helps our staff head in the right direction! By the end of your Starfish summer, you'll have applied your theoretical learning and turned it into hands-on experience and solid, core skills and strategies that will serve you well in your future career and for pretty much anything out there in the real world. You'll go from the "desire to do more" to sending your practical expertise level through the stratosphere. 

To learn more about this path to your future, check out our Staff Guide to Summer @ Starfish (online flipbook version or PDF download) or click on the accordion sections below! 


A Desire to Do More


st200 10Whatever you’ve chosen to do in the future, it’s likely that your excitement for it was sparked by an experience you’ve had, an injustice that you wish to see changed, or a topic that is personal to you. Maybe you know that you’re good with kids and want to do more with that. Perhaps you’re passionate in your belief that all children—regardless of ability—deserve to succeed. Or possibly you’re thinking about teaching — but you’ve never actually stood up in front of a group of children and taught, well...anything!

Starfish is a place where you can test those assumptions, try out your strengths, and most importantly, take what you’re learning in the classroom and put it to work in the real world. Make no mistake about it—you’ll be doing an important job and the care and safety of the campers is paramount at camp. But you’ll wake up every morning ready to take “Psychology 101” and turn it into “Helping Ben Have A Safe Day 101” or even “Katrina’s Successful Attempt at Speaking in Front of the Group 101.” Then, when you’re back to the books, you’ll have unlimited experiences to look back on—tangible moments of learning and teaching that will stick with you forever and inform your future successes. #signmeup

Check out these pages from our Staff Guide:


"I was searching for something I had no idea where or how to achieve. On a gut feeling and some hope, I found myself applying to Camp Starfish to work there as part of the staff team. I still to this day do not know what I was exactly looking for, but I know I found myself there."  


Practical Knowledge


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Because our goal is to have staff on camp who are well-trained and confident in their abilities to create a wonderful experience for campers, all of our staff attend an intensive pre-camp training.

Many potential camp scenarios are role-played during training. Role plays include resolving camper conflicts, calming agitated and angry children, and reassuring anxious and frustrated children. By role playing, working in small groups with leadership staff, and through multiple other learning formats, you will be more than ready when the campers arrive! We also will work on some all-camp work projects that will spruce up camp. (Luckily we save some time at the end to do some cabin prep so you can create the Bunk 4 Spaceship or the Bunk 1 Princess Palace you've been dreaming about ever since we handed you that construction paper!) 

In addition to teambuilding and getting-to-know-you activities, we cover an amazing amount of information during this time, including camp policies and procedures, child abuse awareness/training, basic safety, first aid and health care, waterfront training, team-building workshops, risk management, behavior management including extensive work with the Starfish Tools, Keys and Strategies, child and group development, outdoors orientation (campfires, etc.), how to effectively lead a group and activities, diversity, conflict resolution, bullying, practicing how to structure the camper activities and learning all the daily routines and camp traditions. By the end of pre-camp training, you will have completed enough profession-focused learning to become certified as a Level I Care Specialist. Following additional hands-on work with children over the summer, you may also receive your Level II certification, which includes a salary boost and opens up opportunities for leadership positions at camp!

Check out this summary of training from our Staff Guide:


"The year-round staff are outstanding with behavior management and training their staff to exceed expectations. Working here during the summer was an extremely positive experience, and seeing the ways in which this environment puts smiles on so many kids' faces is heartwarming."


Mentored Practice


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Many of our campers don’t “need” a 1:1 staff-to-camper ratio 24 hours a day, but by providing it, we assure that they are able to find greater success, build skills faster, create stronger relationships, and have more fun. Similarly, our staff don’t “need” a supervisor every minute of the day. But, by having plenty of them to go around, we ensure that our staff feel supported so they can do their best work, more quickly build their repertoire of skills and, of course, have a great experience at camp. That’s why we prioritize staff supports, including:

-1 Supervisor for every 6-8 staff
-Every staff included in a mentoring “Torchgroup” from Day 1
-Routine & scheduled direct feedback
-Unlimited opportunities for in-the-moment feedback & problem-solving
-Goal setting, support & evaluation
-Professional Reviews (“PRs”) each summer
-Individual coaching
-Nightly Co-worker Meeting & Supervisor check-in
-Biweekly small group chats with a Camp Director—topics chosen by staff
-Staff encouraged to attempt behavioral interventions first
-Supervisors available and in sight/hearing distance at all times
-Supervisors trained to support staff efforts
-Consistency & One-voice policy: staff decisions with children are supported

Check out this page from our Staff Guide:

PAGE MENTOREDPRACTICE thumb "Starfish supports their staff in ways that I did not know were imaginable. The Directors teach you not only how to help campers but how to help yourself."



200px208Our well experienced supervisors (we call them Administrators) are responsible for providing staff with the support needed to implement a highly-structured program that sets every child up for success. You're never alone. In your bunk, you've got a group of staff to help you tackle everything - from waking up a cabin full of campers who "really just want five more minutes to sleeeeeep!" to cabin clean-up to the overnight camp-out. A leadership staff member can be found nearby every activity on "coverage" so that you can be sure that someone's "got your back" when you need an extra hand with a camper, group or transition. Moreover, if a child's behavior becomes complicated to manage, an administrator is always nearby to help. Nightly team meetings allow you and your colleagues to review how the day went and get feedback or advice about challenges you've had during the day. Plus, you finish the day informed about each camper and staff member in your bunk and you know what's going on the next day in the village, in your program area, and in the exciting world of all-camp events.

At the beginning of the summer, every staff member establishes specific goals with his/her supervisor. We encourage staff to set goals not only related to their cabin life ("facilitate one positive social interaction between campers by breakfast each day") and their program area ("create fully inclusive activities at sports & rec"), but also for themselves individually. For example, maybe you'd like to be more spontaneous with your ability to get up and lead songs, or perhaps you want to work on developing your swim instruction skills at the waterfront. Routinely, you'll have the opportunity to sit down with your supervisor and discuss where you each believe your performance is in relation to the goals you've set. From there, new goals can be developed or continuing goals can be reevaluated, and you can get ready for another great session where the hard work you're putting in is so valued!

Space for Mistakes


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Our campers are very aware of their extra needs, and you can be sure that they are not looking for perfection from you. What’s more important is that you are solidly, predictably present. That you listen and accept what you hear. That you are willing to be silly, friendly, understanding, empathetic, serious when needed, and a source of strength. Our campers make mistakes and work hard to pick themselves up with the support of the community we build around them. It’s an incredibly rewarding and teachable moment for campers to realize that their heroes and role models can do the same thing. Our staff start practicing behavior management and other interactions on day one of training with small-group role-plays. And as behavior happens for real during the summer, debriefing and follow-up helps you identify the best practices and become a behavior rock-star.

Check out this page from our Staff Guide:

PAGEmistakes thumb

"There is no quick fix for behavioral problems, but Camp Starfish's approach is extremely impactful - they combine structure, predictability, positive reinforcement and creativity to ensure children's success in small but replicable ways. They then repeat these successes over and over again creating a pathway to sustainable change for children who have experienced more failure than success. It's a beautiful and moving experience to be a part of."


Skills Growth


st200 05Building your "soft" skills - those character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize your relationships with other people - is as important as building your "hard skills," which are the knowledge and occupational skills you bring to the workplace. Soft skills include trustworthiness, inquisitiveness, self-confidence, work ethic, dependability, flexibility, team focus, and positive attitude. Over the course of a summer at Starfish, staff develop both their hands-on hard skills and those coveted soft skills that make them excellent camp staff and extremely valuable hires in their future career field.  

Check out these pages from our Staff Guide:


"Starfish taught me that I am more patient, more confident, and more capable than I could have anticipated."


Practical Experience Level: Stratosphere


st200 19In an article at ("What to Expect from your Internship"), the author suggests that the definition of "internship" varies so widely that a baseline for judging one against the other is hard to come by. However, they say, "your boss is not going to give you the company's largest account to handle. You're going to be spending a lot of time in the mailroom no matter what...You should, at a bare minimum, be given real work to do."

WOW. We couldn't disagree more! At Starfish. even though you're joining our team for the first time, we actually ARE handing you are biggest account! We're putting you in charge of the care and supervision of real, live children whose parents are relying on camp to provide them with a safe and successful therapeutic camp experience. Not only that, but this isn't an 8-hour shift filling coffees or taking notes for bigwigs. This is 6 days a week, 22+ hours a day. By the end of your second week, you'll have more hours under your belt than most other jobs will provide in an entire summer! This is why you'll build your practical experience level quickly, and why every member of our team is given real, important responsibility. And that translates very obviously to your pursuits after camp where it will be clear that you are someone who is used to shouldering serious responsibility and who is very capable of leading your peers.  

Check out these pages from our Staff Guide:

PAGE STRATOSPHERE thumb PAGE STRATOSFACING thumb "While I started the summer off nervous and scared, I don't think I had ever been as strong as I was by the end of the summer." 


Support for the Journey

st200 16Everyone's got their own opinions about your life, right? And some voices are louder than others. If you've got all the support you need to plan your summer, that's awesome! For some prospective staff, however, explaining "camp" to family or professors/advisors who don't get it can be tough. They may ask "why are you wasting your summer" or "don't you want to get a real job?" And, of course, after looking through our Staff Guide to Summer at Starfish and perusing the website, you know that Starfish isn't a waste and it is very much a real job! So, how do you help others get on the same page?
Your Parents: 
They are probably concerned about you being away somewhere new, about how you will pay your bills in the fall after camp, and about your safety, as well as about whether you are making the best possible choice for your future by working at "camp." Helping them understand that Starfish is a program for youth with special needs which happens to do its work in a camp environment might help. Of the thousands of alumni staff who have been through our program, only a handful have gone on to a career in camping. The vast majority are now professionals who are currently teaching, providing mental health services, and advocating for differently abled individuals - and many of them actually credit Starfish with getting them there. We recommend showing parents the Staff Guide (you can download a PDF, view it online, or even This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to send you a paper copy - it's like a magazine and we snail mail it old school!). There's a section in the beginning that shows the value of working at camp and has some testimonials from parents of staff members who have seen the power of Starfish firsthand. There's also a compelling NY Times article from a parent who learned exactly why camp meant so much and was such an excellent work opportunity. Regarding wanting to know that you'll be able to support yourself financially, the truth is that while you won't make what you could waiting tables, you will make a competitive salary and have your room (housing), board (all meals), and laundry taken care of for you. Your expenses will be basically zero - which means that you'll end the summer with your actual paycheck, which isn't the case if you're going out every night after you get off shift at the restaurant! 
PAGEdirectornote thumb NEWS thumb        PAGE NEWS3 thumb PAGE NEWSFACING thumb
Your Professors/Advisors:
Your advisors and professors are the ones who will ultimately settle the question of internship credit for your work at Starfish, so it's in your (and our!) best interest that they really understand that you aren't just planning on blowing up water balloons and playing soccer all summer. The Staff Guide also can be a helpful resource for them, especially the pages which explain how Starfish works, what our staff alumni have gone on to do professionally, and what you will learn during training as you gain your Level I Care Certification(you can download a PDF,view it online, or even This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to send you a paper copy!).
Being creative about what you receive the credit in may also help. For example, the training and hands-on work you will do may equate to credits in Special Education, Camp Counseling, Outdoor Recreation, Group Dynamics, Education, Child Development, Youth Development, Sociology, Physical Education, Educational Psychology, Social Work, Psychology or others. If you have a number of community service credits required, Starfish may also qualify for that. Additionally, "field placements," "co-ops," and "independent studies" are often a successful way to get credits if our training doesn't fit exactly into a particular class offered at your school. We have worked over the years with hundreds of schools, so it is also possible that talking with us about what you are trying to do might allow us to reach out to a connection at the school or to a staff alum who can give us guidance on what worked for them!

And, Check Out These Articles!

campmnd212 19Don't just take our word for it that camp is the place to be for up-and-coming professionals like yourself! Here are some of our favorite articles on why:

Buzzfeed: 20 Reasons Why Working at Summer Camp is the Best Job You'll Ever Have

Odyssey: 8 Reasons Why Working at Summer Camp is the Best

Levo: 13 Reasons Every Career Driven Millennial Should Work At Camp For A Summer

Her Campus: Why You Should Be a Camp Counselor (Instead of an Intern!) (But...for the record, at Starfish you can be both! :) ) 


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