Q&A with Colleen Barnhart

With summer swiftly coming, we wanted our campers, counselors and parents to learn more about our 2017 Director, Colleen Barnhart. We picked her brain and asked her some questions about her life, her experience working with kids, and what's she most looking forward to about Camp.

Camp with Colleen this summer! Register today for the 2017 season!

Tell us about yourself! Why do you like working with kids?

I grew up in Collinsville, Connecticut and moved to Richmond, Virginia last summer to live with my friend from Canton. She has been my best friend since first grade! Richmond is an awesome city and there's so much to do! Growing up, I always loved the outdoors. My parents took my older brother and I camping and canoeing on the Farmington and Housatonic Rivers a lot when we were kids, and I always loved running around barefoot in the summer. I went to all kinds of summer camps; I went to a performing arts camp, canoeing camp, Girl Scout Camp, church-related camp, town parks and recreation camp, and good old fashioned summer camp, like Middlesex. 

I've always known that I wanted to work with kids. When I was little, whenever my friends and I would play make-believe, I was always the teacher and they were the students. I used to love going to my mom's preschool on half days and helping her get the kids ready to play outside. When someone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said I wanted to be a teacher - except a minor detour of wanting to be a marine biologist, until I realized science was not my strong suit and there are easier ways to swim with dolphins. When I officially decided to be a teacher in college, I knew I wanted to teach history and social studies because I loved it so much in high school, and had always been excited to go to museums and historic places. Most of my placements through the school of education at UConn were at middle schools, and I absolutely love working with middle school students. I currently teach at a high school and love it just as much. 

The reason I stayed at my previous camp for eleven years was because I loved being a camper so much and I wanted to be able to provide that amazing experience for future kids. I always worked with the oldest groups of female campers, and eventually became the CIT director, which helped me develop my ability to work with middle and high-school aged students. I love how joyful kids can be, and how they find delight in the simplest of things. I honestly think that kids teach you just as much as you teach them, and they bring an awesome form of love and kindness into your life. 

I honestly think that kids teach you just as much as you teach them, and they bring an awesome form of love and kindness into your life

What made you want to be Camp’s 2017 Director?

As a teacher, I am able to continue to go to camp in the summer, and my hope is that I am able to be a "camp person" for the rest of my life. The Director of my previous camp, who herself was the Director of Middlesex in the early 2000s, encouraged me to apply for this position, citing the great staff and community as some of the many reasons I might find a great fit here. We talked it over and we both agreed that MCC is an awesome camp and would be a great opportunity for me to branch out and experience running a different camp. It was a scary thought at first because I had been at the previous camp for half of my life, but I was immediately very excited to get started. I've heard so many great things about Middlesex campers, staff, and the beautiful facilities and I look forward to joining the community! 

What would you say to a parent to make them excited to send them to Camp in 2017?

My first summer at a sleepaway camp, my three friends and I were signed up for one week. We thought that two weeks would be too long to be away from home. I ended up loving it so much that I asked my parents to call the director and sign me up for a second week because I had made so many new friends and didn't want to leave! Camp teaches kids how to be independent. I firmly believe it helped prepare me for college and living away from home. I learned skills that I use every day in my adult life. More immediately though, camp lets kids get away from anything that might be stressing them out, whether it be school, friends, or even something at home. There aren't many places where a child can run around and take small risks to learn about themselves in a safe and controlled environment. Camp teaches kids how to branch out to others, encourages them to try new things, and helps them learn how to coexists with others and even how to resolve conflicts in a healthy manner - all while playing games, singing songs, making crafts, and most importantly, making invaluable and unforgettable memories. 

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?

It is my first summer at Middlesex County Camp, too! We are going to have all sorts of new experiences and make awesome memories together! One of the greatest things about summer camps is that whether it is your first time or your seventh summer, everyone is there for the same basic reason - to have fun! Camps are judgement-free places to run around, laugh, and do wacky things with new friends! In all my summers at camp, I loved going back to camp to see my friends from the year before, but I also always made new friends too! There are also so many cool things to do that you might not get to do anywhere else, like climb a rock wall, ride a zip-line, take care of animals, and have a huge sleepover with friends every night!

What are you most excited about for the 2017 Camp season?

Aside from being extremely excited to experience a new camp, I am excited to help introduce the Clio program to MCC. I've worked with Clio kids for the past several years; I was a counselor during the first summer the program started. The program is really special and the mission is admirable. The program means a lot to me for several reasons. Clio was my camper when I was a CIT. Being able to continue her legacy is an incredible honor. In addition, my two stepsisters are adopted and I have seen them both struggle with their identities as they navigate young adulthood. We have been a family for so long that I consider them my sisters (no "step" needed). Being able to provide an opportunity for campers who are adopted to bond with other adopted kids is so valuable. That's what camps are about in the first place - facilitating a place for kids to grow, develop, and discover themselves, and ultimately allowing kids to just be kids!

I'm also looking forward to learning about Middlesex County Camp traditions and hopefully share some of my favorite things from former camps with the campers and staff this summer! I can't wait to meet everyone!