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Horizons fosters leadership early on with young staff

By The Aloha Team

A Horizons group gathered on the floating docs while a motor boat with an American flag drives by.
Counselors and counselors-in-training lead a song during a closing assembly.

I am enjoying my 10th year as a tripping (hiking) counselor at Horizons. As a seasoned staff member with a background in human development, I observe the camp experience through that lens. I have witnessed campers grow into skillful, dedicated, and energetic counselors. The growth begins while they are campers and practice language and actions that are modeled around them. Just this month I’ve heard campers say:

Do you want to come with us to Arts and Crafts? (9 yr. old)

I’ll meet you at the table in a minute after I find my water bottle. (7 yr. old)

It’s hard not to cry sometimes. (5 yr. old)

That is deer poop. (5 yr. old)

You can do it, take another step. (11 yr. old)

To me, these words sound like early counseling skills. They reflect inclusion, clear communication, empathy, knowledge, and encouragement.

Through our apprentice and assistant counselor programs at Horizons, we train and provide guided practice to young teenagers using skills to nurture and support campers. This week, apprentices and assistant counselors have accompanied us on trips, told stories, played games, encouraged campers along the trail, helped with behavior expectations, managed time and transitions, and expressed genuine interest in the well-being of those younger than them. In return, they receive the affection, playfulness, and respect of campers, as well as other counselors. They are also growing their own confidence.

By the time Horizon counselors are 17 years old, they have responsibilities in planning, teaching, and leading and understand the value of the camp experience. Camp promotes learning about oneself within the context of community and relationships. It is beautiful to watch this cycle unfold and repeat.

By Beth Randall

Aloha Camp alumna, former counselor, parent, and current Horizons counselor