Job Training and Special Needs Summer Programs – Campers interview, keep down a job and can even get fired – Why is our Job Training Program so successful?
At Camp Lee Mar we have a wonderful job training program which seems to be unique among special needs summer programs. Our assistant director and academic coordinator, Laura Leibowitz, oversees our Job Training Camper/Worker Program. Laura has been doing this for many years and has updated and adapted the program from year to year.
During the first week of camp our older campers can apply for different “jobs” around camp. After they apply an interview is set up. If they pass the interview and get the job they will have a staff supervisor assigned to them who will oversee them on the job. The supervisor will train them and make sure they understand and are fulfilling their job requirements. Like all jobs, campers must show up on time, follow the correct protocols for the job and have a positive work attitude.
Some examples of our on-the-job training opportunities at our camp for children with special needs is as follows:
- Dining Room Staff Assistant
- Dorm Assistant Counselor (assisting our younger campers)
- Groundskeeping Assistant
- Sports Assistant
- Kitchen Assistant (Pot Washer)
- Movie Assistant (Popcorn Maker)
- Office Assistant (making announcements over the loudspeakers, answering phone calls)
- Classroom Assistant
- Pool Assistant
- Counselor Assistant
Our campers know that, like any real job, they will lose their employment if they are not on time and or do not meet their required job tasks. The majority of our campers do a wonderful job and often obtain the skills and confidence needed to gain employment after they return home from camp. Our campers get these jobs because they are hard workers and exemplary employees, not because they are children with special needs.
To be completely honest, there is one other major reason our campers work so hard and do such a great job at their Lee Mar camper/worker jobs. It is the end of summer Camp/Worker Party! During the last week of camp we have a big party with music, pizza (from a local delicious Pizzeria), soft drinks and Ice Cream for all the camper/workers that completed the summer at their jobs. Most importantly, this is when the presentation of the Camper/Worker Job Completion Certificates are presented to each camper/worker. During the presentation ceremony, as the director of Camp Lee Mar, I speak to the camper/workers and ask them to share what they have learned from their job experiences this summer. I also share stories of past camper/workers that are now fully employed (such as the camper now working at a fast-food establishment, and the camper working in a doctor’s office).
When we are preparing for camp and find out a camper is not returning because they have a job, although we will miss the camper, we are all so happy and proud of the camper. We also take joy in knowing that Camp Lee Mar’s special needs summer programs, including our Camper/Worker Job Training Program, are a big reason the camper has obtained their employment outside of camp in the “real” world.
Written by Ari Segal, MSW
My name is Ari Segal, I am the director at Camp Lee Mar. I am married, and we have three incredible children. My oldest child happens to be developmentally challenged and was a camper at Lee Mar (He aged out at 21 and is now 22.) I have been with Camp Lee Mar since 1993. I also direct a year-round, supervised, vacation program for adults, 18 & up, with developmental challenges called The Guided Tour.