Camp Taconic has been providing campers with a safe, fun, and nurturing environment for nearly 90 summers. As the summer home for approximately 500 campers and 300 staff members, we aim to provide a welcoming, encouraging, and empowering space for campers of any and all backgrounds and identities. You may have some questions about the Taconic community and your role in it, and we’ve tried to address some of the most common questions below. This list is certainly not exhaustive, so please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions and/or concerns.
What types of campers attend Taconic?
Taconic campers are ages 7-15 and tend to come from a fairly homogeneous background. The majority of them come from New York and New Jersey with smaller groups coming from Maryland, Florida, Massachusetts and others from around the country. Many of our campers are Jewish, and while Taconic has no official religious affiliation or practices, we do offer brief, optional Friday evening Shabbat services for campers and staff who are interested. As with most residential summer camps, Taconic campers typically come from upper income families looking to provide their children with a safe, supportive, and enriching summer experience that will enable their campers to learn, grow, and make and develop friends.
Taconic provides a well-rounded program in which campers are encouraged to discover their passions and tailor their schedules to meet their interests as they grow older. Taconic campers are interested in all sorts of activities and are just as likely to be found starring in the latest camp musical as they are playing in a soccer tournament or perfecting their fabric design skills. Taconic welcomes campers of all backgrounds and invites families with children of all genders, races, ethnicities, religions, skills, etc. to reach out to learn more to see if Taconic is the right summer home for them.
Who works at Taconic?
Our staff members come from as close to camp as Pittsfield, Massachusetts and as far away as New Zealand. In a typical summer, about two thirds of our staff come from somewhere in the United States and the other third comes from abroad, with most of our foreign staff from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Australia. Over the years we’ve had staff from Columbia, South Africa, Poland, Mexico, and Canada, and we value the diversity of backgrounds and experiences that our staff bring to our Taconic family. Bunk counselors are most often between the ages of 18 and 22, and staff members are required to have completed at least one year of college/university. We are proud to have many former campers as part of our staff as well, as attending Taconic often breeds a lifelong love of camp. Our former campers are able to become Junior Counselors before completing a year of college if they complete our Leader in Training Program.
Many of our staff are interested in working in education, coaching, or recreation in the future, though this is certainly not a requirement. We do ask that all of our staff come to Taconic with a love of working with and supporting children. Taconic does not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity, sexuality, socioeconomic class, or field of study, and we welcome interested individuals of all backgrounds to apply to work at Taconic. We hire staff based on ability and experience and encourage any interested applicants to reach out for more information.
Can I talk to campers about my background, identities, and personal life?
We encourage you to bring your full selves to Taconic, and you should never feel that any part of your identity should be a secret. That means that you should feel welcome to be addressed by any preferred names and pronouns by other staff and campers and that you can decorate your personal area with pictures and mementos that are meaningful to you, as long as they are appropriate for children. Our campers love to get to know their counselors and will likely ask many questions about you. Given that working at a summer camp means working with children, though, we do ask that you refrain from discussing certain “adult” topics with or near campers. Such topics include, but are not limited to, alcohol, drugs, violence, romantic partners and experiences, political opinions, etc.. Our campers come to Taconic with a variety of education, understanding, values, and familial contexts surrounding these sorts of sensitive subjects, and it is not our job to be the ones to teach them about these concepts over the summer. While we certainly hope you form close connections with your campers and want them to feel comfortable talking to you, we ask that you leave those conversations to our campers’ parents. If you are ever unsure of whether or not a topic is appropriate to discuss with campers or are not fully comfortable with campers’ questions, please don’t hesitate to ask a head counselor, director, or anyone else for help or clarity. We set these boundaries because we are working with children, and we want to make clear that these are not topics that are forbidden at camp overall. You should feel comfortable speaking with your fellow counselors and other staff at Taconic about anything you’d like. We value having a diverse community of staff members and encourage everyone working at Taconic to learn about and from each other. Forming meaningful and lifelong friendships isn’t just for campers- it’s a major benefit of the staff experience too!
What other kinds of training does Taconic provide for staff?
Taconic provides an extensive orientation for staff members. Camp leadership members begin orientation and planning in early June and then welcome bunk counselors for approximately 7 days of counselor orientation. Throughout that week of training, staff participate in a variety of interactive sessions aimed at providing counselors with an understanding of what to expect throughout the summer as well as with tools to support campers and address common camper issues. Sessions focus on both bunk life and teaching in specific activity areas. We are aware that a week of orientation cannot possibly address every possible situation that may arise throughout a summer, and so a major part of our staff orientation is teaching counselors who they can reach out to for help with different aspects of camp. Additionally, we hold weekly staff meetings so that all staff can receive regular updates and training throughout the summer.
Does Taconic provide any diversity and equity training for staff?
All of Taconic’s full time staff, including directors, as well as associate directors and head counselors participate in DEI training prior to the start of camp. In addition, Taconic provides explicit sessions based on identity during staff orientation, provided both by camp leadership and by outside professionals. While Taconic prides itself on its history and traditions, we also acknowledge that we are continually working to make camp a meaningful and welcoming place and experience for all counselors and staff. We are committed to growing and learning more about how to achieve this goal; please let us know if you need any additional support in this area.
Who do I go to if I have a question?
Anyone and everyone! Our goal at Taconic is to build a welcoming community in which all staff feel comfortable approaching anyone when they have a question. We’ll spend time throughout orientation discussing who to go to with questions about specific topics, but, when in doubt, please come talk to your head counselor, activity director, an associate director, or a director. You’ll also find a wealth of knowledge in returning counselors and even in many of our campers. There is no such thing as a stupid question at camp, and we highly encourage all staff to reach out when unsure or curious. We don’t expect anyone to know everything, but we do hope you’ll know when to ask for help.
What else should I know about working at Taconic?
Many counselors at Taconic have a dual role, working as both a bunk counselor living with children and as an activity counselor, teaching in a specific activity area. This means that counselors generally have two separate supervisors, a head counselor, who oversees all aspects of a given division (i.e. Inter Camp Girls, Upper Camp Boys) and an activity director, who is in charge of the area in which the counselor teaches. Some counselors are general counselors or cabin specialists, meaning that instead of teaching in an activity area, they circulate throughout different activities with their bunk of campers. Head counselors and activity areas are often teachers and coaches who have extensive experience working with children. Their role is to support staff in any way possible, providing counselors with resources for teaching, engaging with campers, and conflict resolution.
Above all, camp is meant to be fun! This doesn’t mean that there will never be stress or problems to resolve, but we hope that those will happen alongside lots of learning, growth, enjoyment, and development of meaningful relationships and friendships.