About a week before the Staffers appear, ready to work and grow together, the Summer Staff counselors arrive in order to prepare for the summer and plan every detail that will make the experience memorable for everyone involved. Without a doubt, Summer Staff is an integral piece of Tuscarora’s ministry but the role of the counselors is to be a source of leadership, support, mentorship, and, inevitably, a sort of parental guardianship for each and every Staffer in their care over the course of each session.
Over the years, a variety of young people have taken up the call to come and serve in this capacity. Perhaps out of a desire to give back to the program what their counselors did for them, or to gain experience in counseling and ministering to teenagers in order to pursue such a calling in the future. Whatever their motivation, each counselor brings to the table their own strengths and experiences that, when brought together, create a powerful environment to enrich the lives of their kids.
I know I will never forget the counselors that taught me and prayed over me and remembered me for the sessions I was involved. In my teenage eyes, they were the pillars of faith and love that I hoped to become one day. Now that I’m older and, to some level, share their charge of making the summer a special one, I am gratified that I’m able to see them for the very capable and promising young adults that they are. For all the struggles that come along with mixing so many personalities and backgrounds, they manage to focus and come together as a single body that their Staffers can lean on and look up to in every circumstance. This previous summer in particular, I couldn’t help but swell with pride as I witnessed five very dear friends – four of them former Staffers themselves – fulfill their duties with admirable grace and maturity.
From what I witnessed, this summer of 2017 was a special and singular one. I have never seen such a strong bond between Staffers and their leaders, and it gave both sessions an air of happiness and relaxation that seemed totally effortless. The kids departed for home in high spirits, and the counselors could be satisfied with a job well done. With that, of course, came satisfaction that they also would leave changed for the better, all thanks to the Staffers they served.
Beyond their responsibilities behind the scenes, however, the counselors are also blessed to be able to enjoy the summer just as much as their Staffers After spending hours in order to create and organize the daily activities, they get to enjoy the experience of watching their kids take part, as well as be involved themselves. The games and events are a special way for the Staffers and counselors to bond together outside of work and make memories that are especially for their family.
Agreed upon by all the counselors, regarding their most treasured moments with Summer Staff, were the private and uplifting words of encouragement and gratitude that they received from the kids. Their job is a difficult one that can leave a person drained and uninspired, but across the board, what kept them all going during the most testing moments was hearing what a positive affect they were having on those teens in their care.
All the counselors came away from the summer changed for the better, having been affected so powerfully by the Summer Staff and each other. This year, I was gratified to witness how important the position is, and how much of a change it can make for all the teenagers who come through the program. Those young men and women who take up the charge of this role have an opportunity to influence many different kids who might need such a person in their lives more than ever. The pressures of so much expectation teach them to rely on one another, as well as take seriously then need to work to the best of their ability to reach the hearts of their kids. With a focus on God and a yearning to give Him the glory through their efforts, the counselors who come through Tuscarora as a part of Summer Staff are in a place to do amazing things and bring about a palpable change in young people who will carry on growing in such an example.