After nine summers spent at Camp Classen in Davis, Oklahoma, Katie Spiropoulos (’22) experienced camp from a whole new perspective as a counselor this past July.
With each passing year, Katie’s love for the Camp has only deepened. She has known for quite some time that she would like to try her hand at counseling as soon as she became old enough for the job. Just last year, she participated at Camp Classen as a “Counselor-in-Training” in preparation for her full-blown responsibilities during the summer of 2021.
As a counselor, Katie led a variety of games and events, including guided archery sessions, campfire sing-alongs, and live performances. Aside from the wide variety of activities the camp has to offer, Katie’s favorite aspect of camp has always been the people. She served as a counselor alongside a few others with whom she has attended camp for many years. That, Spiropoulos said, was “really special.” Although counseling demands a great deal of time and energy (twenty-two hours a day, six days a week, for a whole month), Katie expressed that her time as a counselor whizzed by because her coworkers made the experience so enjoyable. She still keeps in touch with other counselors. Even though they spend just a brief period together each year, they develop a bond “unlike any other.”
Katie feels tightly bonded not only to her coworkers but also to her “crazy camp kids.” Katie spoke tenderly as she recounted one of her favorite memories from this summer: she and her campers were playing a game called “pass the pie” in which a plate is filled with shaving cream. One counselor from each cabin gets a plate, and the players pass it around, musical-chairs style. A few minutes into the game, one of Katie’s campers went rogue and slammed the plate over her head. Katie chuckled as she recounted how other kids immediately ran up and joined the shaving cream fight.
While camp holds many fond memories such as her shaving cream attack, Katie assured me that the position of counselor was far from a walk in the park. Rather, the job was at times more akin to a hike up a scarped cliff… literally. Before her month-long shift, Katie participated in a required training hike along a steep path at Mount Warren. An age-old tradition at Camp Classen, this route’s challenging vertical angles provide a great bonding experience for the kids. (Before taking any campers along with them, counselors scale this course alone to familiarize themselves with the hike.) Just after Katie’s bus left campgrounds for a practice hike, the vehicle broke down. Katie expected she and her fellow future counselors to simply turn around and head back towards camp, but her leader had other plans: he decided that the group would travel two miles to the starting point by foot, and then continue on with the already three-mile hike. Katie got a two-for-one hiking experience, a bit more than she had expected.
Despite impromptu treks in brutal Oklahoma heat, Katie felt most challenged when she had to mediate quarrels between her campers. Since Katie is not that much older her twelve-year-old campers, she sometimes found it difficult to remember that she was the adult in the room. Although Katie found the line between camper and counselor difficult to define in the beginning, she eventually got the hang of it, and she takes pride in this valuable leadership skill that counseling developed within her. While tasked with diffusing the occasional altercation, Katie found her kids largely well-behaved and manageable. In the rare case of a rowdy camper, Katie chose to view these challenges through a more positive lens. In fact, she described them as opportunities for her to bond with her fellow counselors as they worked together to reign in the chaotic kids.
“I can assure you that we don’t counsel for the paychecks — we do it because despite the challenges, we really do enjoy working with the kids, and us counselors really value the relationships we build with one another.”