Spending your first summer at sleepaway summer camp can make new campers and their families feel anxious. At Camp North Star, we go to great lengths to ensure that campers feel comfortable before they even leave home.
New families meet with Steven and Brooke, our owners/directors, during a home visit or talk with them during a video call. This starts the process of Camp North Star partnering with parents so we can provide the best possible experience for their children. Parents feel comfortable that there is always an open line of communication with our directors during the summer and offseason. The home visit is the perfect opportunity to share any personal information about your child as well as discuss the goals and expectations you and your child have while they are spending their summer with us in Poland Spring, Maine.
A typical concern of new campers is wondering how easy it will be fitting in and becoming friends with their fellow campers. One of most important life skills our campers learn is how to make and keep friends. We help our new campers develop a friendship before they even arrive on our 200 acre property. We connect each new camper with a returning camper through our Camper-to-Camper program . A returning veteran camper will call a first time camper by phone in late May or early June. This gives new campers the chance to understand more about our camp on a peer-to-peer level and allows them to connect a face with a name on arrival day.
Camp North Star also makes the transition easy for families as well. We realize that parents are anxious to know how their child is enjoying camp. That’s why we have our Boys and Girls Directors call every new family during the first two days. The director updates the families on their child’s schedule and answers any questions. We also frequently post updates on our social media channels as well as post photos our password protected photo gallery on a daily basis.
And, if you need to contact any of our directors at any point during your child’s stay with us, we are just a phone call or email away. We are always happy to take your phone call or respond to your email. Every family receives a Parent Handbook each summer. There’s a wealthy of valuable information inside including Steven and Brooke’s cell phone numbers which you can call 24/7.
These steps help both the new camper and their family feel comfortable about the Camp North Star experience.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”, John Quincy Adams.
There are endless opportunities for our campers to be leaders at Camp North Star. Caring about your fellow campers and staff, being a positive role model, supporting a friend, following the rules, and being an environmental steward, are all examples of being a leader. You won’t find the word “leader” or “leadership” in the RICHS, which is the value system we follow at camp. But by being Respectful, Independent, Caring, Honorable, and Spirited, our campers and staff are leading by example every day.
As our campers get older, there are more instances for them to lead and learn about leadership. When North Star campers finish 10th grade, they have the option of participating in our Leadership Training program. There are three main components to the program.
First, campers attend daily classes led by our Directors on topics including public speaking, resume writing, interviewing techniques, internet safety, organization and interpersonal communication skills.
Second, there is a weekly hands-on workshop to learn real life skills. We teach our campers how to complete every day tasks such as writing a check, balancing a check book, doing a load of laundry and changing a flat tire.
The last part of the program is a community service component. Each session, the campers volunteer in the local community to give back to the residents and non-profit organizations. Last summer, our campers volunteered at Poland Township Day Camp, Good Shepherd Food Bank and Partners in World Health.
The participants of our leadership training program become more productive campers as well as members of their home community. It’s also the first step to become a successful North Star staff member. The following summer these campers are now ready to be a Counselor in Training (CIT) and are two years away from being a North Star counselor.
There’s unlimited options for North Star campers to choose from within our elective based program. We offer activities in athletics, waterfront, performing arts, fine arts, outdoors and enrichment. Our campers are very fortunate that North Star’s 200-acre property and 55-acre private lake provides unique opportunities to learn rock climbing, high ropes course, water skiing, wind surfing, outdoor living skills and more.
But sometimes it’s nice to leave our home in Poland Spring and visit some of the most popular destinations in Maine and throughout New England. And that’s the main objective of our trips and weekend excursions…to see and experience the beauty of New England with fellow campers and our North Star staff.
Last summer’s most popular trip was a new addition, whitewater rafting on the Kennebec River. We will be heading back to Northern Maine in 2017 to enjoy another full day on Class III and IV rapids. This summer we are adding an option to explore Moxie Falls through a combined hike and canoe trip. Moxie Falls drops 90 feet into a series of large pools on it’s way to the Kennebec River. There are several scenic overlooks that provide a great view of the falls. The hike is moderate and fun for all ages. The afternoon is spent paddling down the historic Kennebec River in 10 person Voyageur Canoes.
Other popular annual trips include Portland Sea Dogs baseball games and 4th of July Fireworks at Poland Spring Resort. North Star takes over the right field stands at Hadlock Field to root on the Sea Dogs and we enjoy an all-you-can-eat barbeque buffet for dinner. We are lucky to be the only camp invited by historic Poland Spring Resort to celebrate Independence Day and watch their awesome fireworks display.
In 2017, we are offering a new trip to explore the White Mountains of New Hampshire. If it’s a clear day, campers will have magnificent views of New Hampshire’s Presidential Range and mountains in Vermont, New York, and even Canada.
Our trips and weekend excursions are a small part of the overall experience for our campers. All trips are included in the cost of tuition.
By Beth Lester
As a camper I refused to get to and from camp by any other means than the bus. Counselors, however, don’t have the opportunity to take a bus back and forth with all of their friends. This past weekend, at the end of the second session I took the bus southbound with another counselor, Frankie, and all of the campers headed home.
The “see-you-later’s” started early for me. Last year, I had been directing cars as they came into camp, so I had been afforded the opportunity to say “see-you-later” to campers one-by-one throughout the day. This year, however, I was hugging crying campers and 4-week-counselors alongside the rest of the bus-riders at one of the premier sleep away camps in New England.
The bus ride down was nothing like what I had expected: tears for hours. The tears were gone by the time we pulled away from camp onto Bishop Road. We had brought movies for the kids to watch if they wanted, but the DVD player wasn’t working. While the kids were initially disappointed, they soon realized that not having a movie to watch wasn’t the worst thing to happen. They started playing a word game called CONTACT! and trying to solve riddles.
By the time we got to the Massachusetts stop in Newton, the kids were emotionally and mentally prepared to give their friends a last hug before going their separate ways for the winter. In all, the trip was significantly less dramatic than I had expected. I would love to take the trip again at the end of the summer. Meeting parents was so much fun, and one of my old camp friends came to the stop to pick up her sister.
There is truly no comparison to the feeling on the bus as it pulls off the highway, something between excited anticipation and melancholy silence, but I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything in the world.
By Noa Billick
As session 1 rolls to a close, campers begin to pack up their big duffel bags and prepare to head home, while others get excited about starting session 2. Seeing that Camp North Star Maine sign at the Verrill Road entrance generates a sense of happiness in our hearts and excitement in our bones. But for those campers who are leaving at this time of the summer, it’s important to learn how to say “See you later.”
Since my first closing campfire in 2010, Sue, the owner and director of camp, has always said the same phrase to us campers as we sit around the campfire ring, listening through tears: “It’s not good-bye, it’s see you later!”
Saying “See you later” is a hard when the rest of the months during the year we are without our camp friends. Sometimes it feels like it’s the last time we see the pine trees of North Star, but most of the time, it isn’t! It is a tough concept to grasp onto, but we do in fact blend back into our daily routines at our own homes quite quickly–quick enough that summer time is back in the blink of an eye.
At the end of each summer at one of the best summer camps for teens, I fall back into my routine and remember how great my home is, how great my friends are, and how lucky I am to be able to go back and forth between a place like North Star and Montreal.
No matter how much I love my beautiful city, there will always be a part of me that belongs among the pine trees and lake of Camp North Star, and there’s a part of you that belongs there, too. We just need to wait those 45ish weeks to be joined with all those magical moments camp brings to us.
By Noa Billick
This is my 5th summer at the beautiful Camp North Star in Maine. Like many, I started out as a camper, in Dublin cabin. This year, I am playing a completely new role: Junior Counselor (or JC for short) in the youngest girls’ cabin, Paris.
Being a JC is kind of like being stuck in the middle: not a camper, and not a counselor. This is what makes it difficult to figure out where you are supposed to fit in. On top of that, there are plenty of different responsibilities that a JC has to learn in order to make an impact on camp, such as organizing evening activities, being “in-charge” (not fully, of course) of campers, being in-charge of cabin cleanup, and much more.
To those of you reading this blog, this new position at sleep-away camp may not seem like a big deal to adapt or to fulfill. However, when one has become used to being a camper under the responsibility of others that are older and more experienced than you, this transition may come as quite a shock at first. Despite the fact that I am currently only on my 11th day as a Junior Counselor, I have comprised a list of things that have made my transition a little easier, and more fun:
1- Put on a smile as soon as you wake up in the morning, and greet your campers with excitement;
2- Eat lots of bananas (they are pick-me-ups!);
3- Be ready to rock & roll by 7:00-7:15;
4-When in activities, take a step-back: you’re not taking the class, and you aren’t teaching it. Ask the counselor in-charge of the class what kind of part they would like you to play in the course;
5- Take all sort of criticism as a way to improve. Ask how you can improve!
6- When in a leadership-type course specifically for the Junior Counselors, pay attention super closely and take notes;
Notice how the counselors around you handle different kids and different situations;
7- Watch The Motivation Breakthrough, presented by Richard Lavoie. It gives you insight to the mind and psychology of children of any age;
8- Make the most out of any situation, and most importantly:
9- HAVE FUN!
By Beth Lester
I first started going to sleep away camp when I was ten years old. By the end of the first day I knew that camp was the place for me. I dreamt about the day when I would finally become a counselor! Imagine, a grown-up getting to be at camp, teaching activities that I love—tennis rocks, other sports—which definitely sounded way more fun than my parents’ jobs of sitting inside all day!
When I turned seventeen, and the time to be a junior counselor arrived, I was beyond excited. Being a JC was the next step towards finally getting to be a counselor. The summer of 2012 came and went, and before I knew it I was sitting at my computer filling out the Camp North Star counselor application. Although I was definitely nervous about the responsibility that would came with being a counselor, I excited for my first summer on staff.
The transition from JC to counselor is strange. While JC’s are technically “new staff” they really fall somewhere in between “new” and “returning.” They’re the grey, when it comes to something that is generally considered black and white. In a cabin of three counselors: returner, new staff, recent JC—the JC knows more than the new staff, but significantly less than the returner. But it’s nice; we balance each other out, filling in the gaps when needed.
Making the transition from JC to counselor last summer was definitely a lesson in ego. I learned that I had come into the summer a bit too confident because I felt like I knew the ins and outs. At the same time, it was uplifting to be learning new things along side other people, and to be getting professional advice from my former counselors.
So, arriving last summer—June 2013—it was a surreal experience. It felt like I was an old pro at the logistically parts of being a counselor—daily routines, classes, where buildings were—but when it came to the behind the scenes—discipline, being the campers’ guardian, building rapport—I was as lost as all of the other new counselors. But after the first 48 hours, everything fell into place. All information vomited upon us during our 10-day orientation suddenly became useful and became part of my daily life interactions with campers. I finally found my niche and went with it, and didn’t stop until the last camper scooted out of camp in late August.
It’s been an exciting couple of days at North Star…let’s recap.
Saturday: We (tearfully) said goodbye to some campers but (cheerfully) welcomed several more. Shout-out to the Boston-Logan counselor crew for successfully dropping off and picking up everyone who needed to be!
Sunday: Even more campers arrived! It was overall a chaotic and exciting and overwhelming day.
Monday: At last, we officially kicked off second session with Opening Campfire Monday night!
I’ve seen plenty of opening campfires at North Star in my day and I must admit that this was the best I’ve ever seen. The talent has been described as unreal. Each act was followed by a well-deserved standing ovation and thunderous applause.
We had a surprise guest during Amy’s speech (it was a snake. heh heh).
I was moved almost to tears on multiple occasions (sometimes tears of laughter, thanks to Jake, Jesse, Noah, and David’s acoustic version of “Solja Boy.” lol).
Needless to say, it was an appropriate way to begin session two (for those of you who don’t know, this is the largest session North Star has ever seen. Dinners are reaching new decibels and breaking all sorts of records as far as volume is concerned).
Welcome to Session Two!!!!
Today we’re going to talk about what’s new at camp this summer.
1. Radio: Live from what used to be the Jam Factory (the Jam Factory is moved to old Singapore, Singapore is moved to the field house behind the soccer/football field) we have on the station 1640 am the CNS Radio Station! Chloe “J-Chlo” “Just Chloe” Ellison, one wonderful third of the counselors who live in Beijing cabin, teaches some excellent radio classes during the week. In these classes, campers choose music to play and discuss a wide variety of subjects…from current events to celebrity crushes to Pokémon. From time to time, camp meeting is hosted over the radio so the whole camp can enjoy camp songs, Animal of the Day, Good News, announcements, and more from the comfort of their own cabins.
2. Cooking: With the update of the cantina into a working facility, our new British cooking teacher and parkour expert from Moscow cabin Frankie is leading cooking class! Campers are learning new cooking skills (i.e. how to cook outside) and recipes (yum).
*Also: a shout-out to Tyler Gould—Congratulations to Tyler on celebrating his 50th Taco Tuesday yesterday!!
*Let’s talk about Lip Sync:
On the boys’ side the winners were Camelot cabin for a moving rendition of the Temptations’ “My Girl,” complete with audience participation.
On the girls’ side the winners were Beijing cabin with their hilariously dramatic performance of “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston.
We had some impressive talent up on stage Monday night. MOST IMPORTANTLY, however was the surprise visit we had from our favorite British boy band One Direction!!!!! (Definitely not played by our very own One Direction doppelgangers Jamie/Liam Payne, Harry/Niall Horan, Andy/Louis Tomlinson, Alex/Harry Styles, and Todd /Zayn Malik)
Hello to parents and campers! After a (not-so) brief time, it’s about time to update the CNS Blog.
This 2013 season, we’ll try to keep you up-to-date with weekly (sometimes more frequent) blog posts.
We’ll include camper interviews, news on what’s been going on here, and maybe even some haikus (thank you Jesse Litvin).
We have a lot to catch up on from the first week of camp…so we’ll start from the beginning. On Saturday our international campers began arriving from across the Atlantic and on Sunday we greeted our American campers at our top-rated summer camps in Maine.
Campers poured out of buses and cars that pulled into camp at a safe 5 miles per hour, some nervous faces among them. As the day went on and the classic spaghetti-and-meatball welcome dinner was served, those apprehensive smiles began to blend in with all the excited ones.
Soon enough, the opening campfire was extinguished and the entire camp began to fall into a first-rotation rhythm.
With the first week of activities came a week of rain.
Rain means rainy-day schedules.
Water-ski is not an option when we’re on the rainy-day schedule. So other indoor classes like jewelry making, dance, and digital photography are the alternatives. When we asked campers how they felt about the rain (and not being able to do the activities they signed up for), the reaction was disappointed but pleased (with getting to try new classes). #trynewthings #camplife #cestlavie #maineweather #classic #expected
The following Sunday, we celebrated our first day of Eco Challenge!!!
The camp split into four teams (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water…not to mention the referee team clad in tie-dye made up of directors and various counselors). We were lucky enough to have a bright, sunny sky under which campers competed in relay races, luge (performed on the waterslide), and Frisbee-baseball among other amazing athletic and creative feats.
And now, to sign off, a haiku from our very own Junior Counselor, Jesse Litvin.
At the waterfront
The water looks really cold
I will stay dry, thanks.