With summer swiftly coming, we wanted our campers, counselors and parents to learn more about our 2015 Director, Jennifer Bates. As such, we picked her brain and asked her some questions about her life, her experience working with kids, and how Middlesex County Camp is special to her in this interview.
1 – Tell us about yourself! Why do you like working with kids?
I am the mom of an 11 year old boy and an 8 year old girl and I have been married for 14 years. My family keeps me busy. We are always on the go with various activities. Both of my kids play soccer and ski regularly. My son takes bass guitar lessons and is a black belt in Taekwondo. My daughter also does cheerleading. In addition to being a mom and a wife, I also own an indoor play gym for kids and I am the PTO Co-President at my children’s school. In all of my activities, my priority is always kids. Whether it’s my own, the kids at my gym or the kids in the school… Just about everything I do is for them.
What I love most about working and playing with kids is their ability to absorb everything they are exposed to and how quickly they learn! In the gym, the kids I play with are ages 0-5. I get to see them learn how to crawl, walk, run, somersault, swing, slide, jump, etc. It makes my heart happy when I see a child make progress in my classes. In my children’s school we have Kindergarteners through 6th graders. I have been able to be in the school volunteering for a variety of roles for the last 3 years. I love watching the kids develop their own personalities. I love connecting with them on something they are interested in and having real conversations about it.
2 – What made you want to be Camp’s 2015 Director?
A few years ago I was working for a large insurance company 65 miles away from my house where I had put 16 years into being a project manager. I was very successful and well respected and I did love the work I was doing. It didn’t happen overnight, but over time I started to realize I wasn’t happy with my lifestyle. I longed to be a bigger part of my children’s lives. I had a need to be more involved in my community. After many discussions and a long transition, my husband and I decided that I would quit my job and we would purchase an indoor play gym that was for sale near our house. This decision gave me the ability to do everything I wanted! I was able to get my kids off the bus every day, I was able to volunteer in my children’s school, and I was able to meet people in my town. But, what was most interesting, was watching groups of strangers come in my door at the play gym, spend time together with their children, exchange phone numbers and leave as friends. That is what I feel most proud of. My gym helps parents and caregivers meet each other, build friendships and create a strong community. I feel similarly about my work as the PTO Co-President. We work hard to raise money and spend money just like every other PTO/PTA out there. We bring enriching activities to the school to help support the educational experience. But above and beyond that, we strive to build a strong community. Our fundraisers are centered on spending time together getting to know each other at events rather than selling items. I feel very strongly that a community that knows each other and supports each other benefits all children tremendously. My desire now is to bring that idea to camp.
This camp has been part of my family’s life since the early 1990’s. My son has attended camp there for the past 2 summers and now I want to get involved and build upon the camp community, bring families and children closer together, provide a safe fun place for kids to grow, learn some independence, develop their personalities and strengthen the entire Middlesex County Camp family.
3 – What would you say to a parent to make them excited to send them to Camp in 2015?
The residential camp experience is about more than just the activities they do during the day. The programs we have are exceptional, but above and beyond that the whole camp experience is about learning and growing into mature, responsible, well rounded young adults. The children learn to respect each other, learn responsibility for themselves and to others, to play fairly and to appreciate differences in others. We strive to create a positive, accepting atmosphere where children can learn about who they are as individuals and how they relate to others. It’s amazing how much confidence kids gain in a week at camp! And, those programs I mentioned before? They are top-notch! We are busy developing our curriculum already and we have so much planned for all of our programs. We have some programs returning from last year: Archery, Climbing Wall, Zip Line, Ropes course, swimming, Arts & Crafts, Sports, Survivor and Rocketry! What a list! In addition to all of that, we are even adding in some new programs this year: Performing Arts, Outdoor Adventure, Barnville where the children will learn how to care for various animals, and we are adding in more science experiments into our rocketry program! We also have an excellent chef on staff to feed everyone healthy nutritious meals to keep everyone fueled for the day and medical staff residing here all summer to maintain safety and administer any required medications.
4 – For a camper who has never been at MCC before, what would you tell him/her to make them excited to give our Camp a try?
Our camp excels at building friendships. Children that attend this summer will spend the week making some of the best friends they will have. They share experiences during their week here that bonds them like no other experience can. Many campers live far apart, but still keep in touch during the rest of the year and then attend camp again together the next summer. This is one of the things that makes us so unique. It’s like having 8 or 10 of your best friends sleeping over your house for 5 consecutive nights! In addition to the friendships, we also provide exciting programs tailored to many different interests. This camp has so many different activities to try. I would encourage children to sign up for a few of their favorites, but also to try a few new ones. We love introducing campers to new activities they haven’t tried before and expanding horizons!
5 – What are you most excited about for the 2015 Camp season?
I am so excited to get started! I am looking forward to meeting and getting to know all the new and returning campers and their families this year! I want to pack even more fun, creativity and educational fundamentals into all of our programs! We are in the midst of hiring our staff for the summer right now and I am looking forward to building strong relationships amongst the staff that will help support the campers and our goal of building a strong MCC family community!
Thanks a lot, Jennifer! We’re excited for 2015, as well!