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Starfish has always used the phrase "life in the bubble" to refer to the close community we create each summer. With COVID-19, a "bubble" has come to mean any closed area/campus and a way to minimize exposure. It still fits for Starfish, since we are literally AND figuratively creating a bubble at camp for 2021. Find literal COVID bubble information here (a new window will open). Read on below for figurative bubble information. :)

 

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:

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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. 
 

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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)! 

Will I need to interview in person?

No, you will not need to interview in person. Our staff team comes from states and countries all over the globe! We conduct all interviews over phone or Zoom. Upon reviewing your application, we will reach out to let you know if we will be moving forward with scheduling an interview.

Is there a deadline for counselor applications?

You may choose when to apply, however the process is competitive and we do recommend applying as soon as possible. If you have interest in a very specific area of camp employment (for example you know you definitely want to teach in our Learning Center or be a swim instructor), we definitely encourage you to apply early in the year.

Is Camp Starfish a non-profit camp?

Yes, Camp Starfish is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, which is an educational not-for-profit. We are completely funded by grants from foundations, corporations and individuals, as well as from tuition which is often provided by agencies, but we do not receive any federal or government funding. We provide some kind of financial aid to a large percentage of the campers. 
 
The camp was founded in 1998 by Deb Berman and Rick Hobish. Our first summer of operation was 2000. We operated for the first 4 years at a rented camp on Cape Cod, and then rented our current home in Rindge, NH for the next few years, finally purchasing it in 2008. You can read more about the history of camp here.
 
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What if I need to leave camp on a specific day?

During a typical summer, if you have a specific day that you need as your time-off, and you inform us about it before the summer begins, we will make every effort to grant your request. In 2021, timeoff will look different due to Covid-19 policies. If you need a specific day off for religious purposes or a medical appointment, we can work with you to set up your time off and virtual access for these services.

Are room and board provided?

Yes, housing and all meals are provided for free while you are working at Starfish. And, actually while "camp food" is often kind of scary, food at Starfish happens to be pretty good. We have hot breakfasts with cereal and alternatives provided, fresh fruit and vegetables on the tables at every meal and well-balanced lunches and dinners. We have a salad bar at lunch and dinner. There are always vegan and vegetarian options, and we are able to accomodate gluten-free menus as well as most allergies. If you have other dietary needs, we encourage you to speak with us to ensure that we can accomodate them (something we try very hard to do). It is an expectation that all staff will live in a cabin with campers, and you will have your own locker for small personal items and a cubby next to your bed for clothes and larger items. You can learn more about "life in the bubble" (what we call living and working at Starfish) here

Will I receive time off while I'm working at Starfish?

Yes! You receive time off each day — one activity period during the camp day as well as a portion of time each night, after kids are in bed. You also receive 24 hours off for every 7 days you work, and this “day off” usually lasts from 7 AM to 7 AM the following day. In most cases, we are able to pair this with a night off. For example, you may have a night off on Tuesday and then be off all day Wednesday before returning to work duties at 7 AM Thursday morning. So, your 24 hours off likely looks more like 36 hours off. Everyone on staff will also enjoy 1.5 – 2 days off in between each camp session. During time off, you are welcome to stay onsite and enjoy staff-only areas and meals provided by camp or you can go offsite, following Covid-19 precautions. If you have traveled to camp from afar, don’t worry: we offer staff transportation to get off-camp.

What are some of the diagnoses campers may have?

While not all children at Starfish have diagnoses, most have been diagnosed with learning disabilities, psychological disturbances, developmental delay, or other similar challenges. Many of the children have either been clinically diagnosed with or exhibit behaviors associated with, but not limited to: Learning Disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Intermittent Explosivity, BiPolar Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A large number of campers have also been placed on the Autism spectrum, with diagnoses of Autism, Pervasive Development Disorder, or Asperger's Syndrome. Regardless of any specific diagnosis, we focus on behaviors as they arise, working individually with each child on any challenges at camp and their ongoing goals.

How much time do the children spend at camp?

In most years, this answer varies a lot based on which program the camper chooses. Due to Covid-19, Camp Starfish is offering a standardized session length to account for best safety practices. In 2021, we will be offering four 14-day sessions. Each session is separated by time off for the staff and some in-service training. Children usually attend one session, though some will attend session 1 and then return later in the summer for a second session. It is intentional that campers do not spend the entire summer at Starfish; there are many campers on our waitlist to attend each year, and additionally, due to the intensive structure campers follow whilst at camp, a break between sessions is often beneficial.

What is the campers' age range? How many kids are there?

Our campers generally range in age from 7-15, and teens in our older camper programs are anywhere from 14-17. Our transitional independent living program, TIDES, serves teens 16+. We are a co-ed camp, usually with approximately 40% girls and 60% boys. Many of our campers have been coming for years and others are new each year. Each session has a maximum of 55 campers. Cabins on the girls’ side of camp hold a maximum of 7 campers; on the boys side, 5 campers. Due to Covid-19, Starfish will be implementing limits on group sizes in 2021.

Can I apply even if I don't have a lot of experience?

Previous experience with children will help you stand out in, and complete, our fairly competitive application process, but is not absolutely required for counselors. Our one-to-one staff to camper ratio helps provide an incredible amount of support for all staff. We also have an intensive 10+ day training before the campers arrive. The training (run by our Executive Director, Camp Director, Director of Staff Experience, Assistant Director and well-experienced leadership staff, along with guest speakers) helps provide counselors with a substantial foundation for working with children who have special needs. Our leadership & supervisory staff also provide the counselors with a significant amount of guidance and support throughout each camp day. During the summer, ongoing trainings and opportunities to enhance your skills will also be available. If you have absolutely no employment experience at all, please know that while your application will be considered, it will likely not be as competitive in our process as those of individuals who do have work experience in some field. 

Is this a volunteer position or are staff paid for their work?

All of the positions at Camp Starfish are paid. No camp pays their staff lots of money - for a few reasons. The first is that many camps are not-for-profit and have small budgets (like Starfish). The second is that working at summer camp is something that people do for the experience, the joy of changing lives, and the chance to be a part of an intentional, postive community, rather than to become wealthy. However, because room, board and laundry service are included (all meals and the cost of living), and time off is paid, most people find that they can enjoy trips off camp on their time off and still leave camp at the end of the summer with almost their entire salary to put in the bank. You can learn more about salary structure and staff bonuses here.

Can I recieve academic credit for working at Starfish?

Yes, absolutely! Lots of staff do. However, receiving credit for your work at Starfish must be approved and administered by a professor, academic adviser, department chair, or dean before you arrive at camp. We will, of course, be more than happy to complete any of the requisite forms and help ensure that once you arrive at camp, you have access to the resources you need to complete papers, time logs, etc., as required by your school. In the past, students have had requirements that included interviewing members of our administrative team or directors, writing stories or essays about their experiences, and meeting weekly with a supervisor to process their learning experience as they go. Any of these things are completely do-able...just let us know ahead of time so we can make sure your schedule at camp allows for these things to be completed in a timely manner! All staff working towards academic credit also participate in a weekly Interns Seminar to make sure you complete your requirements in style. 

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