Student stories

Down by the bay where the QA campers play

Celese Thompson

Queen Alexandra Centre for Children's Health Summer Camps

By Celese Thompson

Recreation and health education student Celese Thompson returned to the Queen Alexandra Summer Camp to complete her final co-op work term. Read about how she learned to plan, adapt and grow personally and professionally with her fellow camp leaders and campers!

For my fourth and final co-op placement I worked at Queen Alexandra Summer Camp as a Camp Leader. This is a fully inclusive camp, but the majority of the campers are children and teens living with a variety of disabilities. As a leader, I was dedicated to the inclusion of all campers. I received a month of intensive training to better prepare me for the changing needs of the campers who attend camp over the summer. Some of the training sessions we received included positive behavior support (PBS), non-violent crisis prevention, child protection policies, sensory processing workshops, behavior management strategies, the Alert Program for self regulation, facilitation of lifts and transfers, Autism Spectrum Disorder and physical literacy.  The camp is divided into six groups of children and teens, with a different theme each week. The summer begins with a half-day camp for new campers, followed by a week for teens, two weeks for 6-12 years olds, then another week of teens. This year was the first year we had a two-week camp for 10-14 year olds and a week for 6-9 year olds. This is the second summer I have done this job and it was great to see some familiar faces and also be able to develop my competencies while continuously learning.

One of my duties as a summer camp leader was planning and leading three weeks of camp in liaison with one of the other leaders. The QA summer staff is only composed of five leaders and one team leader. Working with such a small staff group and having daily debriefs really helped me build my teamwork competency. I got the opportunity to plan and lead a week for each age group (children, tweens and teens). As a leader, it was our responsibility to plan each week according to their age and ability. We discovered this did not always work out as perfectly as we hoped. As a result of this, the ability to be creative and adapt depending on the campers needs was a big aspect of the job. Communication was also a huge component of this job. I used effective verbal and non-verbal communication skills to communicate with campers, parents, support workers, my team members and other professionals associated with certain campers (SCD workers, PT’s, OT’s, etc.). Even though this was my second summer doing this job, I can honestly say I learned something new everyday. I learned from my co-workers, the professionals at QA and the campers. 

Having diverse backgrounds and experiences made a dynamic team. We challenged the campers and ourselves by trying new things and adapted when it was necessary. As a summer camp leader, I was primarily responsible for three-four campers each week. I helped foster friendships, teach social skills, stay safe and, most importantly, have fun. Although my role at camp is to plan, lead and teach, the campers taught me so much as well. Each individual brings something very magical to camp. They all have so much love and acceptance for others and I am lucky to get the opportunity to spend my summer working with them. Even though we only have the campers for a short period of time, they make a lasting impression on me and I hope that I was able to make a positive impact and memorable experience for each camper. Everyone at QA is amazing and it is truly a wonderful place to work.

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