School starts this week for youngsters in the San Luis Coastal district, and they’ll be asked, “What did you do during summer vacation?” Several Central Coast teens could answer, “I worked my first paid job and was trained to be a good employee.”
Ten years ago, Heather Salyer-Frith, Morro Bay recreation youth supervisor, developed a Counselor-In-Training Program offering first-time jobs to youths applying to support the directors and counselors at Kids’ Camp.
New trainees probably come in thinking their job is to prepare snacks, clean, create a daily craft project and help supervise the campers’ games, field trips and theme days.
But what the trainees discover is weekly after-hours training meetings meant to encourage what they are doing well and help them improve their job performance.
“When you give teens building blocks to success, they will be better people, better citizens,” Salyer-Frith said. “They really want to make a difference with the children. As they mature, they need to learn to project the right image. We strive to help them add to their character.”
Kids’ Camp Director Shodee Chapman and Camp Manager Angelica Gallardo complete the management team.
Adrian Vallens will study political science at Claremont McKenna College this fall. A graduate of Coast Union High School, he started as a camper then worked his way into the training program. He’s been a counselor for three years.
“They help us develop our potential,” he said. “Interviewing, being on time, supervising activities are a few things we learned. And we can advance when we do a good job.”
After being home-schooled, Michaela Dow joined the team at age 14. She just completed her third summer as a trainee. She hopes to continue working at Kids’ Club, the after-school program.
“The kids always make my day better,” she said. “Even if I have a bad day, they make me happy.”
Considering a nursing career, Dow said her favorite projects were making badges, bug day and creating games the kids could play.
Morro Bay High students Alex Britton and Candi Ayers completed their second summers. Britton admitted he was nervous interviewing. They made him comfortable by asking how he’d handle situations at camp. He says he enjoyed the kayak trip and hopes to become a history teacher.
Ayers enjoyed baby-sitting before becoming a trainee. She found the supervisors friendly and helpful. The campers would often start out shy but then warm up and enjoy the activities, she said.
She says she’ll definitely try out again next summer and someday wants to “fly first response in helicopters for hospitals.”
The counselor trainees spent their summer vacation learning to be responsible. First-year trainee Brittany Thompson summed up the general feeling: “I had the best summer ever. I’m really going to miss the kids.”
Reach Judy Salamacha at 801-1422 or firstname.lastname@example.org.