By Anna Herman, Director of URJ Jacobs Camp, and Jordanna Flores, Director of 6 Points Sci-Tech West
It was May and the clock was ticking: Staff training would begin in a few weeks and 6 Points Sci Tech West was still short two staff members. Only in its second summer in Los Angeles, they knew that having excellent role models as counselors is critical to building camp’s future. But without alumni to hire and little word-of-mouth in the region, finding Jewish college students who are studying STEM and don’t already have a lab internship is challenging. Director Jordanna Flores sent an urgent plea to the rest of the URJ camp directors:
“Does anyone have staff hired for late summer who can be spared in early summer? We can use it as a different kind of shlichut (Our Israeli Ambassador counselors): They will bring you back systems from a newly launched camp and in turn, they’ll bring us your tried & true best practices!”
Enter Anna Herman, Director of URJ Jacobs in Utica, MS. She felt Jordanna’s desperation and knew she could help: She had a counselor she could spare during first session! Larry Jacobs (no relation to the camp’s namesake!) is from just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas and grew up attending Jacobs. She knew that Larry’s commitment to and passion for Jewish camp, not just at Jacobs but across the nation, would enable him to contribute thoughtfully and diligently to any URJ camp, and that his skills would serve Sci-Tech West well. Knowing Larry to possess a constant positive attitude and willingness to try new things, she suggested he attend.
Larry participated in Jacob’s staff training week and then flew to Los Angeles to attend ours so he would feel oriented and enculturated. Larry was instantly popular among our 15-person staff, a small group that bonded quickly.
“When I first arrived at Sci-Tech, I was full of excitement and nerves, but I was ready for the new experience,” Larry said. “Although I was going to a brand new camp in a part of the country that I had only been to once, I was ready.”
His thick Arkansas accent and Southern expressions combined with his can-do attitude endeared him to the leadership and counseling staff alike. Part way into the session, Larry confided in Jordanna that he was initially extremely nervous to come to Sci Tech and part of him didn’t want to make the leap at all.
“What gave you the courage to do it, then?” Jordanna asked.
“Because I wanted to help the URJ. And because if Jacobs Camp were in trouble, I would want someone to help us,” Larry responded with his sweet Southern drawl and his love of camp shining in his eyes.
Both Jordanna and Anna were thrilled with Larry – and the results of the collaboration. Just as they expected, Larry brought Sci-Tech West best practices from Jacobs Camp.
“Throughout orientation, someone told me that I was contributing a lot l … I was simply utilizing skills I learned the week before at Jacobs, such as how to talk to a camper that is having a moment of sadness or anger, and how to improvise activities in given situations,” Larry said.
And in turn, he learned thing at Sci-Tech that he could bring back to Jacobs.
“At Sci-Tech, I learned so much, including how to lead science activities, how to work at a camp that is completely out of my element, and how to work with campers that are smarter than me at 11 years old! I love that I had to opportunity to bring my skills from Jacobs to Sci-Tech and vice-versa. I am honored that Anna Herman gave me the opportunity to travel across the country to work with Sci-Tech and their team. Jordanna, Rachel, and everyone on staff at Sci-Tech made me feel so welcomed and loved, and I wouldn’t change any of my summer experience because of just that.”