Within my first week at Camp Tawonga, I became acutely aware of the fact that I needed to work there as an adult. Even though I was ten years old, I knew this. It was a magical place. After that first summer, I returned for seven more as a camper, then a counselor-in-training, then as a teen service-learning participant. Beyond instilling me with strong values and showing me the importance of social action, growing up at Tawonga made me want to give back some of the good I got as a camper to future campers.
In 2010, my dream became a reality when I received a phone call from a director telling me I’d been hired as a counselor. After that summer, I was hooked, most likely for life. I recently finished my fourth year on staff, and I’ve gotten more from my time working at Tawonga than I could have ever expected. Besides meeting or reconnecting with friends who I’ll stay close with for as far into the future as I can imagine, I’ve gotten to work with so many kids and teens who have drastically enriched the quality of my life.
The campers who I’ve met and lived with over the course of the last four years have given me some of the best summers of my life. What’s even more amazing is that I’ve gotten to watch them grow up at Tawonga over the course of the last several years, just as I did. I can only hope they (and so many other great people) choose to work at Camp Tawonga and benefit from the same mental, emotional, and spiritual growth that I have.
– Katie Kilbourn – Tawonga Camper: 2001-2008 / Summer Staff: 2010- 2014
Going to Tawonga as a child was the first time I really felt connected to my Jewish spiritual identity, surrounded by the beautiful wilderness. I wanted to work on staff at Tawonga to help bring that same life-changing experience to others. I’ve worked for five years on Kitchen Staff — first as a Prep Cook, then as an Alternative Foods lead, and most recently as a Manager.
I have felt and seen firsthand the unique and amazing ways Tawonga supports all their staff to succeed and learn true professionalism. The kitchen has felt like home to me for five summers, and the family bond I have with those wonderful people will be lifelong. Over the course of my life, Tawonga has proven to be the most profoundly influential and inspiring community I’ve ever been a part of. The very real relationships I’ve cultivated with my coworkers and supervisors have nourished my personal growth and have taught me so much about how to bring that love out into the world.
– Lucia Young – Tawonga Camper / Summer Staff: 2009-2013
I’m not Jewish and I’d never been to Tawonga before as a camper or staff. In 2012, I was applying to several different seasonal jobs around the country, one of which happened to be Camp Tawonga. After being offered the job, I was very nervous making a massive change such as this one. However, that is what I was looking for, so I took the job.
After working at Tawonga for one summer I knew without a doubt that it was the best decision I had ever made in my life. I had never been surrounded by a more encouraging, open minded and free spirited group of people than the family I had made working at Camp Tawonga. So much so that I knew for summer 2013 I would have to return to the place that I now know call home! They say that home is where the heart is, and for me, that is Camp Tawonga!
– Eric McDearis – Tawonga Staff: 2012-2013
Working at Camp Tawonga is the most rewarding experience a person can have. Every day I felt blessed to be in such a beautiful place, surrounded by the most inspiring people, changing the lives of children for whom I genuinely care. It’s hard not to be in love with Tawonga. I believe it brings everyone’s strengths together to form a strong community of staff members who love and support each other in the spirit of creating the best camp experience possible. Back at school, I still share what Camp Tawonga has given me with those around me. I know my experiences have shaped me for the best.
– Melanie: Camper, Counselor
I was a camper from ages 7-15 and loved it! After my first year of college, I was excited to give back to the campers what my inspirational staff had given me growing up. I spent 2009 as a counselor, 2010 as a program assistant, and last summer as a kitchen supervisor. I keep coming back to camp because it’s the most supportive work community I have ever been a part of.
I feel genuinely connected to every Tawongan, whether it’s a camper experiencing their first taste of camp, or a director who has been there for decades. People are not pretentious or closed off. Supervisors welcome your feedback and can actually change things quickly to make a better camp experience for the kids and the staff. Every decision, big and small, is made with our campers at the front of our hearts.
Working at camp has taught me to be a better team member, a harder worker, and a better friend. After being on staff at Camp Tawonga, I didn’t just “get along with my coworkers.” I finished each summer with a deep compassion and trust for the whole staff team that will continue to carry over into years beyond.
– Gabi Kirk – Tawonga Camper: 1998-2005 / Summer Staff: 2009, 2010, 2013
I thought having been a camper and having done the In-Training program, I had a good idea of what it took to be a counselor at Tawonga. Boy was I wrong! That first summer as a counselor was one of the most fun and exciting summers of my life. Not just because I got to spend the entire summer at camp (dream come true), but because of the people I met and the community I became a part of in a new way. That summer also presented me with some of the greatest challenges I had faced in my life up to that point, and it was hard, energy-consuming work. Looking back on that summer I grew an immense amount, as a counselor, a team member, and an individual.
Tawonga gives so much to the people who experience it and those people will jump at the chance to be able to give back to it in any way. I am privileged and honored to be able to call myself part of the Camp Tawonga community, staff and family.
– Chelsea Kaufman – Tawonga Camper: 2001-2009 / Summer Staff: 2011-2013
I was never a camper at Tawonga. I wanted to work for Tawonga because I have a passion for working with children in the outdoors. In today’s world, it is very hard for kids to go outside and be able to see the wonders that this country has set aside for us, the people, to enjoy. I love being able to put in perspective how big our world is and what it is capable of. It’s pretty wonderful that I also get to experience those wonders with the kids.
Tawonga has shaped me into a well-rounded professional and has taught me the true importance of community. I carry with me the Tawonga Canon of Ethics in everything that I do and in every job I hold when the season is over. It has made me a better person all around and I consider Tawonga my family.
– Sean Altman – Summer Staff: 2009-2014
I started at Tawonga as a camper who had never been to a sleep away camp before and did not fully identify or know much about what it meant for me to be “Jewish”. I look back at Tawonga now as a the sanctuary of my childhood which taught me how to become an individual, feel comfortable in my skin, value being a part of the Jewish community, and most importantly how to give everything I have learned back to the campers I worked with.
I dreamed of working at Tawonga from the first summer I spent there. Those who work at Tawonga do so because there is no place they would rather be. It isn’t about having a job for the summer; it is about being in a place that you grow to love and showing your gratitude by giving the campers some of the best summers of their lives.
– Shana Gabow – Tawonga Camper: 2005-2011 / Summer Staff: 2013
I was a camper and participant in Tawonga’s teen leadership programs before returning to camp as a prep cook in 2011 and as a counselor in 2012 and 2013. I always wanted to be on staff because the staff are such good role models for the campers at Tawonga. They show the campers how to be a good person, in the way they act with each other and in the love they show for nature, campers, and each other.
While on staff I have learned a lot about myself! Tawonga has always been my second home and it is where I have thrived.
– Sam Berry – Tawonga Camper: 2001-2009 / Summer Staff: 2011-2014