By Garrett Simmons
DO Crew members in Coaldale are learning on the job this summer thanks to a partnership with the Town of Coaldale.
Teens in grades 10-12 are assisting the town with its summer camp programming, after DO Crew members expressed a desire to broaden their horizons.
“One of their interests was working with younger kids, so we connected with the Town of Coaldale and thought it would be a good idea to collaborate rather than start something new,” said Kaitlynn Weaver, Outreach Services Supervisor for FCSS.
As a result, DO Crew members have been busy helping with Coaldale’s youth summer camps, which serve youngsters between the ages of 7-12.
“They’re acting as camp counsellors for a couple of hours at a time, and right now we have three DO Crew members (Jasmine DeBoer, Abigail Giacchetta and Niesje Reurink) that have been consistently coming to the camps and taking on this role,” said Jillian Boyd, Youth Do Crew Co-ordinator for FCSS. “They’re really interested in working with these kids and building their own leadership skills. I’ve also really noticed it’s increased their general confidence.”
For the teenage camp counsellors, working with young children has been a bit of an education, according to Boyd, who added her volunteers have learned valuable skills such as conflict management and simply keeping the campers on track and on task.
“It has been interesting watching the DO Crew learn how to handle that,” she said. “The campers have their opinions, and they aren’t afraid to express them,” she added with a smile.
Danita McGinn, Community Services Assistant for the Town of Coaldale, has been thrilled with the contributions DO Crew members have made to the camps, which run Monday to Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. each day. The assistance is especially helpful right in the middle of the week.
“On Wednesdays, we typically go the Birds of Prey so by the time we get back, our counsellors are exhausted,” said McGinn. “The DO Crew has been vital in just allowing the counsellors that breathing room afterwards. It also gives our counsellors time to plan, set up for the next day and it’s also really refreshing to have a different set of eyes.”
The regular camp counsellors put in over 40 hours each week, and McGinn added the young campers sometimes benefit from a different leader and different teaching style every once in a while.
DO Crew members work with FCSS staff to ensure they’re on the right track by planning activities that are fun and engaging, while also providing learning opportunities for the campers.
“Afterwards, we have a 30-minute debrief session where we talk about what went well, what we can improve on for next time and kind of brainstorm the next session,” said Boyd.
Weaver added these discussions have been extremely valuable.
“A lot of times you can have theoretical discussions about what something might look like but until you actually do it, and you have the hands-on experience, you don’t actually know what’s going to work and what’s not,” she said.
And according to McGinn, DO Crew members have certainly honed their skills the last few weeks, something she’s witnessed firsthand since the start of the camps.
“The DO Crew brings in a whole wealth of skills that they have been developing over the summer,” she said. “When we started, they were a quieter group but it’s been really great to see the DO Crew develop their voice and to find themselves and develop skills that are needed.”
McGinn added the teenage volunteers have learned what it takes to keep a large group of youngsters entertained and just as important, on task.
“For a teenage person to be able to address 20 children and do it with the confidence they need to get the group engaged, it’s just been really great to see them grow.”