Written by Kelsi Moran
There are many reasons why kids love going to summer camp; it’s fun, your friends are there, you get to participate in activities you love. But what about the people that make the magic happen? The DC SCORES camp counselors play a large role in the camper experience and they become role models for many kids.
This was evident every day at Truesdell’s five-week soccer & arts camp that wrapped up last week, with several DC SCORES alumni now in high school and college mentoring the youth through DC’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).
“I think one of the best parts of camp for me is building friendships with the campers, and being able to talk to them when they need advice,” said Oscar Argueta, 18, an SYEP counselor and DC SCORES alumnus.
Through SYEP, adolescents and adults ages 14-24 are placed in various productive work environments, including DC SCORES, with the intention of providing youth with work experience and keeping them busy. During the long summer months, students are more prone to boredom and are more at risk of unhealthy decision making and learning loss. SYEP successfully combats this, especially for SCORES alumni actively engaged every day at camp.
“I grew up in a rough neighborhood, so working for DC SCORES helps me to get involved with extracurricular activities rather than activities outside of school that could be bad,” said DC SCORES alumnae Ingrid Melendez, 18.
Melendez, like many of the counselors, has done it for multiple years. She’s now a rising sophomore at Trinity Washington University, and has been an SYEP worker for DC SCORES since she started high school. Her love for the kids and desire to stay busy during the summer is what motivates her to continue coming back.
When campers are asked to talk about their favorite counselor, their eyes light up and they enthusiastically explain why. The relationship between a counselor and a camper is monumental not only for their enjoyment level while at camp, but also in their lives. I watched first-hand throughout the five weeks as the children gained meaningful friendships with people they look up to and who care for their well-being in and outside of camp.
Alumni like Oscar and Ingrid worked hard every day, energetically engaging with the campers even on the hottest of hot and humid afternoons.
“I love working with kids,” Ingrid said. “I just love when they smile and their faces light up from the smallest things. They are always excited for what’s next.”