in the words of our camp social worker
Cindy Toncler can’t believe she didn’t know about the power of overnight camp sooner. “After spending the summer at Wise last year,” she says, “I have one regret – I wish I had sent my own girls when they were kids!” A Bellefaire social worker who’s been in the schools for 20 years (with the last 10 at Orange High School), Cindy says camp is so important because it touches on every aspect of what it means to be a good person.
“What I like best about Wise is the approach we take with caring for kids,” she explains. “In today’s world, kids aren’t just expected to reach the bar, they’re pushed to jump over it,” Cindy says. Because of this, she believes camp is not only a unique environment for them – it’s crucial. “At camp kids can be kids,” she says. “They make their own choices, are encouraged to be creative, and have these incredible counselors as role models guiding them.” Even more, she says, the character development taking place at Wise leads to higher emotional intelligence, and teaches the kids how to positively relate to others. “The whole identity of being a Camp Wiser is about this,” Cindy explains.
So what exactly does a camp social worker do? Just like nurses are at camp to take care of the physical needs of campers and staff, Cindy helps take care of the emotional and psychological needs of the camp community. Describing her role as ‘supportive consultant,’ Cindy says she
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CW staff represent
in national leadership program
This summer, seven of our amazing staff will be part of an elite group of camp counselors selected from Jewish camps across the country to be Cornerstone Fellows. Created by the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), a non-profit that serves as a champion and resource to Jewish overnight camps (and offers the “One Happy Camper” grants!), the Cornerstone program works specifically with 3rd and 4th-year bunk counselors, recognizing that these experienced counselors are the ‘cornerstones’ of camp.
The Fellows are part of a national conference at the end of May that gives them additional training and skills, largely in the areas of programming and Jewish education. “The Cornerstone conference is amazing,” says Mara Berde, who’s not only our Camp Wise Jewish Education director, but is one of the FJC’s Cornerstone Faculty. “It gives our staff the opportunity to network with other camp staff from all different kinds of Jewish camps and learn from amazing teachers. They learn to think more critically about the delivery of Jewish content in camp and further develop their role as counselors and educators.”
Once back at camp, the Fellows work on several key projects. A first-year counselor mentoring program, all-camp programs like last summer’s Tu B’Av Wedding Night, and Israel programming are some examples of projects run by our Fellows. Our camp-wide Mishpachot (families) program, where the whole camp is divided into small mixed-age ‘families’ for Shabbat programming, was created two summers ago by our Cornerstone Fellows, and continues to grow under the leadership of the Cornerstone team. Mara Friedman an dh er ‘ p a r e n t s ’ f o r t h e C o r n e r s t n e o M i s h p a c h o t p r o g selors r a m , c o u n L i s s y C o l l i n a n d M a t - t h e w Z u k e r m a n .
In the seven years Camp Wise has been a part of the program, over thirty CW staff have been Fellows. Seen as a huge honor both in camp and out, past Fellows say that Cornerstone is an incredible leadership opportunity that often even comes up in job interviews. “Cornerstone made me a better leader and taught me more about working with other people,” says Becca Semel, a 2010 Fellow. “It also gave me a lot of insight into how Judaism fits into our fun life at camp. I loved being a part of it!”