Former campers seek Summer Lab employment


Yanni Simmons

READY FOR ADVENTURE. Arms outstretched, counselor Gigi Reece assists her Adventure Kids group on a water slide. Gigi says she enjoys playing with her campers and leading group activities.

Caledonia Abbey, Midway Reporter

For many, Summer Lab is nothing more than a time for little kids to run rampant through the halls of U-High. For others, it’s an opportunity to earn money as a camp counselor.

For a select few, however, Summer Lab’s Adventure Kids Day Camp is more than just a summer job.

Gigi Reece and Cole MacSwain are part of this select few. Both have been involved with Adventure Kids for over a decade, this past summer being their 11th year, spending eight years as campers and the last three as counselors.

“Since my dad works at the school, he wanted me to do a camp at Summer Lab, so I picked Adventure Kids because it had the most field trips so it seemed like the most fun,” Gigi said. “For a long time, it was where I had these specific camp friends, friends who didn’t go to Lab, and that’d be the only time I’d get to see them throughout the year.”

I just keep coming back because ultimately I love the idea of a Summer Lab camp not centered around academic studies and more around making sure these kids have fun.

— Cole MacSwain

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Gigi, Cole and the other counselors would take campers on “adventures” like going to Navy Pier, arcades or rock climbing. On days when they’re not on trips, campers participate in art, movement, and sports classes led by teachers along with other special activities.

“Since I liked the camp so much and had done it my entire life, becoming a counselor just seemed like the next step,” she said. “Switching wasn’t much different because I already knew how the camp worked and where everything was. I was still able to have fun with the games; it just came with a lot more responsibility.”

Gigi works with third grade campers, saying that it’s her favorite age because “they’re mature enough to joke around with and play more complicated games but are still at a stage where they’re down to be friends with everyone.”

According to Cole, “the transition goes from a camper to an unpaid counselor, or counselor-in-training, to a full counselor going into sophomore year.”

“I just keep coming back, because, ultimately, I love the idea of a Summer Lab camp not centered around academic studies and more around making sure these kids have fun,” he said.

As both a camper and a counselor, Cole describes “fort wars” as “the best activity by far.” The game follows the usual rules of  dodgeball, but with the mats in the gymnastics rooms as forts.

Both Cole and Gigi love to work with kids and see being a counselor as good experience for future jobs.

Gigi said, “It’s work, but it also doesn’t always feel like work, because I’m playing along.”