The Canteen is a tribute to all things Jewish sleepaway camp. Hosted by the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), this blog is written by campers, alumni, parents, and camp professionals and is a place to talk about parenting, camp fun, projects, crafts, recipes, and more – all tied back to Jewish holidays, traditions and, of course, camp!
One of the great advances for USY Summer Experience in the last few years has been our affiliation of with the Foundation for Jewish Camp. Though we are not your traditional bunk and mess hall kind of camp, USY on Wheels, our cross country travel program for teens, has benefited so much from our affiliation with FJC. Over 100 of our USY on Wheels participants over the past three years have received incentive grants through FJC’s One Happy Camper program.
But the benefits don’t end there. This past March, I was fortunate to participate in high level professional development programming and training at FJC’s Leaders Assembly with two colleagues. With over 700 other Jewish summer professionals, the conference gave us tools and inspiration to perfect what we do. The amount of knowledge and new ideas we gained was unbelievable. Here is a brief look at what we learned, which has and will continue to impact USY on Wheels before, during and beyond the summer.
Before: As a result of our learning, we reexamined our marketing timeline and are working on improvements for the future. We have begun a staff newsletter and are using several ideas to help keep our staff happy and engaged. Additionally, our upcoming staff week will include enhanced sessions on gender identity, inclusion, and conflict resolution supervision, all inspired by lessons from Leaders Assembly.
During: We walked away with so many great ideas to implement this summer. We created sensory boxes for long bus rides where teens focusing can be an issue. We are elevating our use of social media. We are reviewing how we use survey feedback to improve our programs each summer. And we are working to ensure that staff and participants leave our programs with a stronger grasp on the leadership skills they have developed over the summer.
Beyond: Among the more rewarding aspects of the FJC experience are the networking and camaraderie. It was really something to sit in a room full of hundreds of Jewish camp professionals, all hoping to bring some new strategy or idea back to their camp. All hoping to get better at what we do: making a difference in the lives of Jewish youth. The conference was a chance to bounce ideas off other camp professionals and pick up tips from all across the country.
We can’t wait to see how our new knowledge contributes to the growth of our programs, our staff, and our participants, both this summer and beyond!