If it’s Friday, I am interviewing counselors

Camp Pinnacle24 Mar, 2012

Fridays are the most important day of my week.  It’s the day I interview potential Camp Pinnacle counselors. If a candidate makes it to my interview, (their third interview) they have already been carefully screened and there is a high likelihood they will be hired.  I feel the weight of responsibility.

This year our hiring for new counselors is relatively easy. We have dozens of applicants who have been through our Adventure Treks Leadership Summit training program in the Pacific Northwest. I have watched these folks grow up as many were Adventure Treks students for four or five summers. I have seen them develop a community mindset and contribution mentality. I know their morals, values, family background and leadership potential.  Despite our close connection, I still interview these wonderful folks carefully.  It’s great fun to hear about their success at college and reconnect after a couple of years apart.

I interview carefully because one wrong hire can negatively affect our entire summer, while the right hire can make a lifelong impression on a child.  When I talk to our alumni in college and beyond, they cannot over emphasize the impact their counselors had in contributing to their view of the world and themselves.  Counselors are the role models who inspire a child to challenge herself, the role models who reinforce strong parental values, and the role models who see strengths in a child that the child himself may not yet see.  A great counselor encourages these strengths and helps a child feel good about herself and get a glimpse of her tremendous potential.

Great role models are especially important, because children have far fewer of them today.  It is said that the most significant indicator of whether a child will grow up to be successful is if they have an interested adult in their lives.  Children spend on average over 7 hours a day staring at screens. They have embraced a peer culture and technology in a way that effectively edges adults out of their world. Cuts in school budgets have increased class size and decreased the time that teachers can be actively involved with students.  Kids are missing out on what they need most; interested and effective role models.  While this generation tends to have excellent relationships with their parents, kids need to hear it from someone who isn’t Mom or Dad.  Camp Pinnacle counselors play a unique and powerful role as role models and mentors.  It’s one reason we feature such a low counselor to camper ratio (1:3).  When someone takes an interest in a child and lets them know they matter, the benefits last a lifetime. The lifetime value to a student who has an exceptional (vs. an average) fourth grade teacher is reported to be over $200,000.  I would argue the lifetime reward of having a great Camp Pinnacle counselor may even exceed that.

When I interview, I feel a great sense of responsibility to our parents.  As my children will be Pinnacle campers this summer, it’s easy to frame decisions:  “Would I be ecstatic for my daughters, Ella and Ava, to spend the summer with this person?”  If not, they won’t get the job! Just as I trust my counselors to consistently make good and conservative decisions, you should have the same expectations for me. I don’t take this responsibility lightly.

That’s why I interview every new counselor.  I know of very few of my peers who still take the time to do this. It serves several purposes. I’ve mentioned the first… It’s a responsibility I have to our parents. Strategically it also serves a great purpose.  No other camp has as high a rate of job acceptances to job offers as we do (Over 95%).  When applicants get to spend significant time with the executive director and get to talk philosophy and even interview the director to make sure Camp Pinnacle is right for them, it’s extremely rare that an exceptional applicant with multiple job offers chooses a different Camp.

Finally, my interview is a chance to get a jump on staff training.  I can make our high expectations clear. I can make sure applicants clearly understand our kid centered focus and the importance of the substance we instill in our program. I can make sure applicants share our safety mindset and I can build on a relationship of mutual trust that will continue for many years.

It’s a privilege to be able to be of influence on your child. Know we take this responsibility very seriously.  We are hard at work to make summer 2012 a very special one. Thank you for your trust.

Best regards,

John Dockendorf


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