Girl Scouts Give It Their All: A Camp Leadership Story

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What is a Camp Aide?

I have been a Camp Aide at Oakland Girl Scouts Great Escape Day Camp for four years. Each unit has a leader and a few camp aides. The unit leader focuses on keeping activities on schedule and safety, while the Camp Aides take on the rest of the responsibility for the campers to learn leadership. They are in charge of leading activities, helping everyone get along, making everyone feel comfortable, and giving the leaders a hand whenever they need it. Most importantly, the job of a Camp Aide is to make sure the campers have fun! Usually, it’s an awesome and easy job to make sure everyone is safe and happy, but sometimes there are challenges: girls get tired or angry or just done. That’s where you get to put your leadership skills to the test because whether you are playing tag, swimming, on a hike, or even playing Mafia, it is important everyone enjoys their time.

Applying to be a Camp Aide

The camp that I volunteer at is called The Great Escape Day Camp. The camp was run by my grandmother some time ago but when she retired, the camp stopped running, before Rebecca Scalf, or “Professor” as I know her, picked the camp back up again. I started attending as a Daisy, and went every year all the way up through Juniors, before becoming a Camp Aide by earning my Leader in Action (LiA) award as a Cadette. Cadettes can become a LiA by assisting a Brownie group on any of their National Leadership Journeys by sharing your skills, then reflecting on the whole experience.

Throughout my years at the camp, I always looked up to the Camp Aides; they were what made the camp so special to me. I remember playing mafia with them, eating snacks with them, the countless lanyards I started (only started, does anyone actually finish those things?). Some of my favorite Camp Aides were River, Dandelion, Ninja, and Cheese-it, and those are just the ones off the top of my head. With so many amazing memories, when I got the chance to apply, I signed up right away! The application process for being a Camp Aide at Great Escape is very simple: it requires you to have earned your LIA award, which you can get through the camp in your second Junior year, as well as attend two workshops with the adults to prepare for that year.

Fun Fact: One of the most important parts of being a Camp Aide is choosing a camp name. What is a camp name, you may ask? A Girl Scout camp tradition lets you pick a fun name to use at camp, like a codename for your amazing summer! It also is a way to demonstrate authority while still keeping it fun for the kids. People go by whatever they want: some examples are Cupcake, Bubbles, or, in my case, Zazu! “Zazu” is what my mom calls me (I truly don’t know how she evolved it from Avery) and I wear that nickname with pride, especially after I watched “The Lion King.” I also try to wear something with Lion King on it while I am a Camp Aide, just for fun.

Advice for Future Camp Aides

As a future Camp Aide, the best thing you can ever do is listen and have patience. If you do those two things you will be golden. Listen to your girls. Listen to what they want to do, what they don’t want to do, make more time for the things they want, and bring the best energy you can to the activities that might not be as much fun. Additionally, have patience: the girls will warm up as they get more comfortable with you and the other girls there. The most stubborn campers always end up being the happiest ones by the end!

The hardest part of being a Camp Aide is that you will make or break the girls’ experience, which can be a lot of pressure. But you have lots of support from your fellow Camp Aides and leaders. When you succeed, it makes being a Camp Aide is one of the coolest things you can do.

If you want to be a Camp Aide I would make sure you come in with clear expectations. Your first day will be a lot of learning. You don’t have to be an extrovert, just willing to try and willing to get a conversation going. For applying, the best advice I can give is just to make sure that you show them the real you, what you want to be, can be, and how you will improve the girl’s time there.

The Real Camp Aide Experience

Being a Camp Aide is honestly one of my favorite parts of summer. Many of the girls that volunteer at the camp have been doing it for years and years, and we all treasure the experience of being a Camp Aide. Overall my favorite experiences are the memories I have with the girls, whether that is playing quidditch (I was the snitch, and let me tell you, trying to find the right speed to run with 20 kindergarteners running after you so it’s hard but not impossible for them to catch you is not easy) or teaching a girl how to make a friendship bracelet, or when simply having downtime to play and truly get know the girls on a really personal level.

It’s not just a fun time at camp though; the responsibilities are hard work, but very rewarding. Realistically, it is a volunteer job, meaning you work from early morning to late afternoon. You have to stay energized and fun for the girls even if you’re not always feeling at your perkiest, because your mood affects the girls so much. Sometimes they are tired or worn out or cranky, and sometimes you have to talk to them about behavior or smooth out conflicts, but that’s the job of a leader, to make sure they have an amazing time anyway.

But even on the days where I felt a little overwhelmed or worn out, I never stopped loving being a Camp Aide. Overcoming those challenges is super rewarding. The girls often thank you with hugs and drawings—one time a girl even made me a personalized scavenger hunt! And, at the end of the day, you see what a great impact you have on girls’ confidence, enjoyment, and memories, and that is the best reward of all.

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