You may already know that Harlam’s Gesher (Counselor in Training) program is more than just a summer of fun – it’s a leadership development opportunity for rising high-school seniors. But you may not know that Gesher participants are also able to explore the year-round professional side of Harlam and elements of camp’s success that many of our campers and staff seldom get to see, too. Over the past two summers, Harlam has welcomed several Development CITs who are exposed to the world of nonprofit fundraising at Harlam. Development Associate, Jackie Appel, spoke with four of our Development CITs to find out more about their experiences.
Jackie Appel: What was the high point of your experience as a Development CIT?
Maddy Gold: My favorite experience as a development CIT was being able to speak to all of Harlam’s alumni about how their generous donations really helped my camp experience so special and meaningful. This year as a counselor, I was able to see how it also impacted my campers!
Izzy Cutler: So many interesting people come to camp every Shabbat to see all the amazing things that we do, and it was so fun to welcome them and get to spend some time with them.
Julia Nestel: Behind the scenes of camp is a very complex process and it takes a lot of effort from many different individuals who all work together. As a camper, you are so blind to the planning that goes into each and every component of camp, but after being a CIT I was able to see how camp is able to work as seamlessly as it does.
Jackie: Did you learn anything about camp that surprised you?
Abigail Adelman: As a camper for almost a decade, I never took a second to think about how camp runs further than the surface. Learning about how camp runs and camps plans for the future gave me a new respect for the place I love most.
Julia: Having Aaron [Selkow, Harlam’s Executive Director] explain the 60th anniversary plans to me, specifically the logistical details, that I otherwise wouldn’t have been aware of. I loved hearing about all of the behind the scenes work that goes into the operations of camp, and specifically what went into the amazingly executed Anniversary Weekend program at the end of the summer.
Izzy: While this summer was my 8th summer at camp, it was the first time I got to see more of the fundraising side. In addition, I was able to see the inner-workings of a large non-profit organization, which was as educational as it was interesting.
Jackie: What was your biggest takeaway?
Abigail: Things need to change in order to grow. We cannot only stay focused on keeping tradition, we need to be moving forward and making thoughtful changes in order to thrive.
Maddy: My biggest take away was that the best way to get someone’s attention or to get someone to listen is by being honest and genuine. People don’t like to hear fake stories or memories or listen to someone who hasn’t experienced what the organization stands for.
Jackie: And what about your favorite accomplishment?
Abigail: On my last day of being a development CIT, Aaron tasked Gracie Silverstein and I with researching through old news articles about Joe and Betty Harlam. While looking through we found out the name of the artist who created the ‘Burning Bush’ sculpture at the Chapel on the Hill that Aaron had not even known. It was really incredible to read about and learn about camp through primary sources.
Julia: My greatest accomplishment was being able to partake in a videoconference call with members of the professional staff back at the camp office in Philly. I was able to incorporate my personal thoughts into the conversation which made me feel not only included but also valued in real decision making.
Maddy: My greatest accomplishment was helping with the phone-a-thon! The phone-a-thons were one of the things that helped camp exceed its $1,000,000 goal and I was proud that I was able to help with that!
Jackie: Finally, how have you incorporated what you learned this summer into your life?
Julia: I have begun to pay more attention to the behind the scenes aspects of my day to day life. For example, in school I am more interested in the work that goes into planning events (homecoming, prom, football games, etc.,) whereas I was used to essentially showing up without a second thought.
Maddy: Being a Development CIT drastically changed my career path. After being a Development CIT, I decided that I wanted to have a career in non-profit development. I now attend Binghamton University’s School of Management (the business school) where I am getting a degree in Business Administration with concentrations in Marketing and Leadership & Consulting. Since starting school, I have become Development Intern at Hillel at Binghamton where I work closely with the Executive Director to try to make Hillel the best place possible. I have also co-chaired two major events on campus where I used the leadership and organizational skills from camp and being a Development CIT to run these programs, one that had over 500 students, successfully. Finally, being a development CIT taught me about how to speak in public, organize data, and speak from the heart, all skills which I use in my college life daily.