Attending camp had such a positive impact on Stacie Soto that she decided to become a counselor at Oasis summer camp Downtown. She loved her experience working at Oasis so much and kept coming back each summer. Over the years, Stacie was promoted from counselor to division leader (supervises the counselors), and in 2015 became the camp director. Next year in 2020, she’ll be celebrating 12 years with Oasis summer camp in New York City!
Stacie grew up on the Lower East side and attended PS 110 as a child, which is home base for Oasis summer camp Downtown. She always wanted to work with children and brings her skills as a high school social worker to camp each year. Providing children with the best summer of their lives in a fun, safe and inclusive environment is of utmost importance to Stacie.
Oasis summer camp in New York City is a place where kids can connect, unplug and discover - all key to an amazing camp experience. But Stacie says that developing meaningful relationships and the Oasis culture of community is what keeps kids and families coming back each year.
Keep reading to learn more about Stacie’s favorite experiences at Oasis Downtown and the various programs offered for kids ages three through 15.
What do you love about being a camp director?
The best thing about being a camp director are the moments where you're having so much fun it doesn't even feel like work. It's not always easy and can be unpredictable at times, but it's the unpredictability of camp that keeps me on my toes and helps me adapt to different situations. It's hot and the days are long, but I can't imagine not spending my summers at Oasis. Starting with the preseason, I love developing the summer calendar, special events, staff training, and then putting everything into action.
I also love the experiences that the kids and the staff get out of Oasis summer camp in New York City each year. It's rewarding to help create an environment where kids (and adults) can just be themselves and have fun doing so. I've had the pleasure of having former campers return as staff members and I’m very open with sharing my personal camp experiences with them. It provides some insight as they develop their skills as youth workers. I’m always looking for teachable moments, and make sure to check in with my staff on their physical and mental well-being.
What are your favorite things that happen on a typical day at camp?
Morning rally is hands down my favorite time of the day. We start each and every day with a rally, and I think it’s the best tradition we have at Oasis. The entire camp forms a circle and we sing camp cheers and chants. This is followed by announcements, shout-outs, and camp incentives for camp spirit, cleaning up, super staff, etc.
A different group leads the rally at camp each day and parents even stick around to watch the rally. Afternoon snack is another fun time when we all come together for ice pops, which are definitely a favorite.
Why do you think kids love attending Oasis day camp?
I believe one reason is the culture we have at Oasis. Camp spirit, community and a sense of belonging is something we really take pride in providing. Camp is not rigid like it might be at school or at home, and the counselors have the freedom to bond with kids which is why the staff is definitely another reason why kids love Oasis day camp.
We have a saying called "getting in the mess," which means the staff doesn’t just watch our campers have fun - we have fun and do the activities with them. Our staff is a caring and compassionate group of young people who get in the mess, and really spend time building relationships with our campers and families. Many of our campers and staff return for many summers because of these relationships.
Why would you recommend that students become an Oasis camp counselor?
Working as a camp counselor is so much more than just keeping kids safe and engaging in fun activities with them. Camp is a place where you learn about yourself, how you interact with people, and where you can express your creativity. Counselors learn leadership, communication, and management skills that they’ll use for life. Camp is also a place that challenges you to go outside your comfort zone and try something different.
As a camp counselor, you’re the role model and the reason campers are about to have their best summer memories. Counselors spend so much time with children each day, and have the power to impact them in such a meaningful way in such a short amount of time. It's so rewarding to be a part of that experience, and the kids are so excited to see you when you come back the next summer.
Additionally, as a counselor you’ll make friendships with other camp counselors and staff that will last a lifetime. I believe camp is a place where you can continue to grow and learn year after year.
Tell us about a favorite memory from camp this summer.
One of my favorite memories from this past summer was putting on the Oasis Downtown Musical show. Each group at camp, from the preschoolers to upper camp, created original stories and performed a musical number. The kids brainstormed their own ideas and even gave song suggestions.
The stories featured a magic school bus that went into space, a day when everything at camp turned into candy, and a time when counselors switched bodies with area 51 aliens! We put the show together in just under two weeks and received such a positive response from the families who came to watch. It was a magical experience for everyone.
What are you most excited about returning to camp for the 2020 season?
Seeing the returning campers who might have grown a foot taller or have a new baby sibling or maybe even got braces. Welcoming our new campers and teaching them the cheers and rituals we have at camp is always fun. Then there are the tie-dye projects, carnival, shows, color wars. It's hard to choose one thing I'm most excited about
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