Southeast Missouri State University student Veronica Southworth is spending her summer as a camp counselor at Camp Henry in Newaygo, Michigan, making sure summer campers have fun and create lifelong memories.
“Every day, I’m responsible for a group of campers from the time they wake up until the time their head hits the pillow,” said Southworth, a senior recreation/park administration major with an emphasis in outdoor adventure and a commercial photography minor from Waterloo, Illinois.
From operating a high ropes course and zip line, to earning her lifeguard certification and assisting with waterfront activities, Southworth stays busy every day.
“I lead activities all around camp, from our waterfront on Lake Kimball to high up in the air on our zip line and high ropes course,” she said. “Every day is different, and every day is a ton of fun.”
She’s also learned that being a camp counselor is about fostering relationships and supporting homesick campers. It’s also helped her to gain confidence in her abilities and build her leadership skills.
Southworth’s favorite day so far has been a float trip and campout held during staff training.
“I had been really nervous, being one of the few people on staff who had never been a camper or counselor here before and was worried because I felt like an outsider,” she said.
The trip, though, placed Southworth in her element so she was able to unwind and start connecting with her co-workers.
“I have really just enjoyed the sense of community here at Camp Henry and how welcoming and open all of the counselors, staff, and kids have been,” Southworth said. “Summer camps are a really unique setting and allow for lifelong bonds to be formed in as little as a week, and I just find it to be magical, really.”
She says being a camp counselor is an opportunity for her to experience the joys of camping while exploring a possible career field.
“I wanted to work at a summer camp and experience firsthand what I hadn’t had the chance to experience as a child,” she said. “I hope to gain a better understanding of how summer camps operate and if going into camp programming is right for me.”
She credits her success at Camp Henry in western Michigan to her time in the classroom and practicum fieldwork at Southeast.
In addition, Southworth is involved in Game Club SE and the Outdoor Adventure Club at Southeast.
“Recreation is such an all-encompassing term and includes anything from working at a YMCA to leading a trip along the Appalachian Trail, and I have learned a ton of things that could help me in either situation. I owe it all to Southeast’s wonderful program for making me feel confident and prepared no matter where I end up working within the field,” she said.