This summer, senior Adam Ketchum worked as a co-director at a 4-H camp. 4-H is a global, non-profit youth development organization administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 4-H stands for head, heart, hands and health – the organization’s four focus points.

Q: What is 4-H, and how did you get involved with their summer camp?

A: 4-H offers a variety of programs, including normal summer camps – activities in the woods, arts and crafts, campfires, typical camp stuff – for kids our age and younger. I attended it for several years as a camper, but after a while, I realized that I didn’t really want to be a camper anymore. I still wanted to go to camp, though, so that’s why I decided to be a co-director instead.

Q: How did you become a co-director?

A: I applied and went through two rounds of interviews, and then a friend, who ended up being my co-director, and I started making plans back in January – hiring staff, organizing activities, just planning camp in general.

Q: Where was the camp located?

A: Just off a lake near Nevada City. It was pretty woodsy. We were there from June 20-27.

Q: How would a typical day start?

A: The staff had to wake up at 6:45 every morning for a staff meeting. After that we did flag raising. Then we went to breakfast, then cleaning duty, and then what we called “tribe time.”

Q: Tribes?

A: We divided the kids up into six “tribes” at the beginning of camp, and these tribes competed for points in different events. Tribe time can be a meeting, a small bonding activity, or just a time to chill with your tribe.

Then we had tribe rotations – these were activities such as archery, arts and crafts, sponge tag, kickball and canoeing. The kids could earn points during the rotations.

Q: What did you do after tribe rotations?

A: We’d have lunch, and then we had the “big events.” There were two big events – Crazy Track Meet and Water Olympics. Each of these events had various games within, like relays, sack races, giant games of capture the flag – stuff like that. The kids earned points during these events as well.

After dinner we’d have some sort of night activity – usually a campfire or a dance. Then we’d go to sleep.

Q: How many hours of sleep did you get?

A: I woke up at around 6:45 to be at my first meeting in time, and my night meeting would go until 11:30 p.m-1 a.m. depending on what we had to do. So I didn’t get any sleep at all.

Q: Tell me about your rooming situation.

A: Every counselor had a “cabin,” but they weren’t really cabins; they were actually just wooden platforms with railings around them and cots on top. We slept under the stars.

There was nobody on night duty or anything – the camp is so out there that there really aren’t any dangers except wild animals, which are rare. There was a bear in the girls’ area one night, though, and that kept them up all night. Luckily, I didn’t have to deal with that.

We actually had a lot of residential animals this year – more than in previous years at least. We had five deer, a bear and her two cubs, and a bat. We named them all.

Q: How was the food?

A: I don’t really know why there’s this stereotype of camps having bad food. Maybe I’m just not a picky eater, but every camp I attend seems to have good food.

Q: What hard decisions did you have to make?

A: Since I’ve grown up in this camp, I’ve gotten really attached to a lot of the traditions. But we had to move campsites, so I was put in charge of getting rid of those traditions and revamping the camp, in hopes of starting new ones. The camp moved from a site called Las Posadas in Napa County because we couldn’t get the week we wanted. We had to get rid of a lot of our events – (like) a giant scavenger hunt.

Ketchum, pictured here with the 4-H camp staff and chaperones

(Photo used by permission of Ketchum)
After working as a co-director, senior Adam Ketchum (pictured with the 4-H staff and chaperones, middle row, sixth from left) realized how much work goes into camp operations.

Q: What was one thing you learned?

A: I’ve learned to appreciate every camp director in the world after having this job. I was never aware of how much work is put into running camps and how hard it is to figure out even the little things: a schedule, a tribe, cabin arrangements, next week’s menu.

Q: What’s the best part about being in charge?

A: During the day, I had a little more flexibility. I could take showers whenever I was free instead of during one of the designated shower times, and I got to pick which activities I wanted to do. I could even choose to just go and take a nap in the rec room instead.

Q: What was your favorite part of 4-H camp?

A: Watching the kids was a lot of work, so my favorite part of camp was probably staff night. There was one night (when) the staff were allowed to stay up after the rest of the kids went to sleep, and we basically just hung out and did fun stuff together.

—By Marigot Fackenthal

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