For brand new campers, the first day of camp is filled with curiosity, a few stomach butterflies and a ton of anticipation for the exciting adventures to come. But what about the first day of camp for a new camp counselor? And what if that camp counselor used to be a camper herself? 

We caught up with Yiehsa R., a local Bay Area high school student, to talk expectations versus reality, new learning experiences and what it was like to uniquely experience STEAM Dream Camp (RAFT’s hands-on STEAM summer program) as both a camper and a camp counselor.

Let’s start from the beginning. What was your experience like as a camper at STEAM Dream Summer Camp?
YR: I really enjoyed being at camp! I went in 2019 and it was only the second camp I attended in my life. I am an immigrant. Where I come from, we do not have these kinds of opportunities. So when I came to STEAM Dream Camp during the summer, I had a really special experience. We were introduced to new ideas and new concepts, but we still had the chance to figure out things our own way.


How about when you came back to STEAM Dream Camp as a counselor? How was the experience different from attending as a camper?
YR: As a camper, I didn’t worry about anything. It was so supportive! I had a really positive experience, so I wanted to give the experience I had back to the kids.

But when I came back as a counselor, I can’t say that I didn’t have any new challenges. It is a big responsibility to make sure the campers are safe, having fun and learning - all at the same time! So that was a change for me. The teachers and other counselors were super supportive and made sure that I didn’t feel like I was alone or pressured. I loved how we all worked as a team to give the best experience that we could to the campers.


What was your favorite part about being a camp counselor?
YR: Oh! I loved how the kids got so excited and curious over small things. We would play a game called Drip Drip Drop - it's a water game. It was definitely my favorite game, and maybe the campers’ too. They wanted to play it every single day, and every single day they would say hilarious things! The kids are pretty funny. It was really a joy.

How about something you learned?
YR: I'm very introverted. Before being a camp counselor, I used to be very nervous about things. For example I would second guess if I should say things or if I instead should just go for it.

But I learned that when you are a camp counselor, there will always be many things happening at the exact same time, and you have to make sure the kids are set. So I got out of my comfort zone and learned how to focus and stay positive in an environment which sometimes could be stressful.

And now for the real question: would you do it all again?
YR: Yes! I really enjoyed being around the kids. I actually am going back again this year as camp counselor! 


Are you a high school or college student? Do you want to gain professional experience while shadowing credentialed teachers and helping younger students learn STEAM? RAFT's STEAM Dream Camp might be that one-of-a-kind place where you discover your passion for teaching.

To learn more about STEAM Dream Camp and camp counselor opportunities, visit RAFT’s STEAM Dream website.