'Camp Noah' counselors find rewards

BY HEATHER MOYER | Rocky Mount, NC | August 7, 2000

"Patience," laughed Paul Schultz at he plopped down on a chair after an exhausting first day of 'Camp

Noah' in Rocky Mount, NC.

There are of course many other qualities to a successful counselor, and the seven counselors of 'Camp

Noah' are all excellent examples. Six of them are college students and one is a class of 2000 college graduate

(the coordinator of the counselors), and they all made the same choice: they would spend their summer

being whisked around the U.S. -- sometimes not even knowing where they'd be the next week -- working

with kids who've survived disasters, in a job that pays a lot more in experience, emotions, and in lasting

friendships, than it does in money. And that's just fine with them.

"I had no idea what to expect, but I've gotten so much out of it," said 18 year-old Amy Cmelik, an

elementary education student at Wartburg College in Iowa.

Most of the counselors heard about the job through their campus ministries. Many of them have worked

in camps before and were interested in the challenges and benefits 'Camp Noah' would offer them. "I've

done summer camps before, but this one had a new twist," said 18 year-old Jamie Tessing, a Spanish and

religion student at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.

Cmelik agreed. "It's so different than a regular day-camp experience because you get to hear about the

kids' lives and stories."

Others thought the camp would be a great way for them to explore their careers more. "I want to go into

mission work and education, and this is one step further for me," said Carrie Opperman, a 22-year-old

elementary education student at Concordia University in Wisconsin. Schultz is a 19 year-old elementary

education major at Hamline University in Minnesota. "I want to be an elementary school teacher, and this

was a great way to test the waters and see if that's what I want to do," he said.

"I love working with kids and with the community," said 21-year-old Kristen Thompson, the coordinator

of the camp and recent graduate of St. Olaf College. Kathryn Slavy agreed with the others' statements, and

had her own reason for working at 'Camp Noah' too. "I love Jesus, and I love kids and this puts them

together. I felt like this is where God wanted me," said the 21-year-old elementary education student at

Winona State in Minnesota.

Working with the kids has it pluses and minuses, with the counselors agreeing that there are more

positives than negatives. "I love when the kids (relax) and talk, and then you can really see how happy

they are," said Kristin Engstrom, a 21-year-old student of comparative literature and international relations

at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The counselors said they all love seeing the difference they

make in the kids' lives even though they're only in town for a week. They added that it's even more

special when the parents come in and tell them about the differences they've seen in their children.

"I love when the kids are singing the songs (we teach them) around the camp, and especially when the

parents say 'I've been hearing that song all week,' " said Opperman.

The most challenging part of the job is how to discipline the kids, according to the team. "It's tough

knowing where to draw the line," said Schultz. The group said other tough parts of the job include being

able to involve all the kids and trying to get the quieter kids to talk about their feelings.

Even though the job has its challenges, you can still usually find a smile, or at least a sigh and a smile, from

the counselors when they have kids hanging on them or when they're trying to teach the kids games amid

all kinds of chatter. And whether they're interacting with the kids during the camp or joking during the

evening about which counselor's feet smell the worst, the chemistry between the team is very obvious.

They're quick to help each other out and step up to make dinner or plan the next day's worship session

with the kids.

This week is their last on the road, and while some are a little homesick, they all agree that they've had a

wonderful summer. "It's been very rewarding," said Schultz.

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