The Magic of a Camp Job: Staff Application for 2024 is Now Open!


In February of 2018, during my first year of college, my friends began daydreaming and talking about what they would be doing this coming summer and the jobs they were applying for. We were all studying Outdoor Education and were hoping to gain more experience in the field, and of course, a priority was doing something active and engaging in the outdoors. Some were hoping to be a raft guide on rivers in Western North Carolina, others applied for internships at various national parks, but many were excited to gain skills at summer camps they had attended, had worked at previously, or had applied to. I had not grown up going to any camps, but I had coached youth baseball teams and had started going on trips with friends in various outdoor activities such as climbing and whitewater paddling. The opportunity to spend the summer on rocks and rivers in my new backyard and introduce kids to the outdoors sounded great, and I began looking for a camp for the summer. This decision would profoundly impact my development as a professional in the field of outdoor education and my development as a communicator, friend, team member, and leader.

Gwynn Valley stood out among all the other camps because of the camp’s values and how closely they aligned with my values, the farm-to-table program, and the property’s beauty. I applied for a few positions, luckily got hired, and waited anxiously for the start of staff training, trying to read and watch as many videos as possible to figure out what exactly I had gotten myself into. The beginning of staff training came, and I was astonished by the community I was now a part of. There were people from so many cultures, countries, and colleges, but they came together to provide impactful experiences to the campers and enjoy a summer around so many new friends. That summer, I learned and grew many skills from working at camp, such as communication, problem-solving, teaching, stress management, and a love for introducing people to the outdoors. I knew this experience was unique, unlike anything I had experienced before, and it was hard to put into words the impact that summer had. It is hard to quite put the “magic” of a camp job into words, but we can turn to the research to see the impacts.

A recent study of 556 camp staff at various camps across the US using a pre-post survey methodology found that most camp staff experienced growth and development in workplace skills such as leadership, resilience, and teamwork through working at camp (Botting et al., 2021). Other studies have shown that camp can be a place to develop confidence and communication through the staff experience (Garst et al., 2009). The skills you learn at camp can apply to many professions and career paths, and the memories and friendships made at camp are an invaluable experience. A camp job is not just an opportunity to experience the simple joys of childhood but also to grow as a professional and be a part of a community working towards a common goal: To provide campers with an enriching, nurturing, and impactful experience. 

I hope this article has you daydreaming about the magical nights spent catching fireflies on the gatehouse green, paddling down a Western North Carolina river, or enjoying corn on the cob in the dining hall grown at the farm. Our staff application will open today, and I look forward to seeing the returning and new staff applications come in this fall and watching the community of summer 2024 begin to form. Reading the applications from returning staff members that come in each fall brings me so much joy because I see the passion and enthusiasm for the common goal in writing, and it gets me excited to dive into another summer of growth and learning. I see the values that brought me to Gwynn Valley pour out in your writing in the reasoning for reapplying, and it fills my cup with joy. As you consider returning for another summer or your first summer at Gwynn Valley, I hope you are as excited as I am about the prospects of a summer filled with simple joys, hardships, friendships, and a community unlike any other. Whether it is your first summer or your 20th, I look forward to seeing you on the Green on the first night of staff training, trying to get 12 people through a jump rope. 

I’m looking forward to seeing you in May 2024!

Until then,

Chris and the Gwynn Valley Team


Botting, R. G., Ribbe Jr., R. E., & Robinson, G. (2021). Assessing the Impact of Summer Camp Employment on the Development of Workplace Skills. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education & Leadership, 13(1), 82–95.

Garst, B. A., Franz, N. K., Baughman, S., Smith, C., & Peters, B. (2009). Growing without limitations:” Transformation among Young Adult Camp staff. Journal of Youth Development, 4(1), 21–34.