Business Government

A Summer Position That’s More Than Just a Job

Westmoor Park counselors. Courtesy photo

West Hartford’s Department of Leisure Services is still hiring.

Leisure Services offers a number of activities for children in the summer, which means hiring 150 staff members to be counselors, lifeguards, and more. Courtesy image

By Tracey Weiss

Summer work is fun, fulfilling, and currently available through the Town’s Leisure Services department. Applications are slow to fill this year; the town has many jobs to fill, and given that registration for summer camps and other activities are at a record high, they need to do that as soon as they can.

Normally, these jobs fill up quickly, but applications have been slow to come in, according to Marc Blanchard, manager of Leisure Services.

“We hire 150 jobs summer staff positions across the department,” he said.

“In a lot of instances, these are first jobs for students. We have always played an important role in bringing students along in the work world. We provide training, and this may be the first time they are responsible to themselves and their parents.”

Before COVID, “we would normally have a lot more applications by this time,” he said.

“In 2020, we ran a few camps, but no pools were open. Cornerstone hires jumped in and staffed the positions we needed filled.”

Some of the regulars who work for the town during the summer did come back in 2021, but a good number did not return. “In a normal year we retain 80% of our staff from year-to-year,” Blanchard said. “Most of them stick with us for a few years and move up the ranks.

“I don’t know if it’s slow because of COVID or if they forgot about us and made a fresh start somewhere else,” he added.

“At the same time, we are hitting registrations for camps with numbers we have never seen before. Parents are thirsty and jumping to get their children signed up. The town has hired thousands for these summer jobs over the years.

“There’s a lot of variety and a lot of opportunity,” Blanchard said.

“These are good summer jobs and everyone has fun. We’re a trusted organization,” he continued.

“You’re working for a well-respected department. Plus, it’s great experience if you want to go into education. Being a counselor is the best education.”

Alaina Torremeo, who is in her ninth year as a counselor for the Camp Funtastic and Hillcrest summer camp experiences, agrees.

Now teaching grades 6 and 7 in Columbia, Connecticut, she has “climbed the ladder from the entry level position of camp counselor to assistant director of the Camp Funtastic program with director Rich Mabey,” she said.

“As someone who knew that being an educator was going to be in their future, applying for WHLS was a logical step in that process. The job afforded me countless opportunities to interact with all age groups of children, think on the fly, collaborate with co-workers and campers, problem solve, and develop fun activities for everyone. Working for [Leisure Services] and Camp Funtastic is better than I ever imagined it could be. What better job to have than to be a role model for children and share whatever passions you may have with the next generation.”

Counselors and campers take a selfie during a camp hike. Courtesy photo

Frank Duncan is an EMT and firefighter who worked for the Town of West Hartford during the summer for years as a manager at the pools and ended his career with the town in 2021.

“Working for Leisure Services has taught me so much over the years,” he said. “Most strengths I value were built from many summers as a leisure services employee. I would recommend working for WHLS as it provides many opportunities for self-growth and experience.”

It’s a fun place to work, too, Duncan said. “One of my favorite memories: at the end of every swim meet, we would have a lifeguard relay race. This was always fun to watch and see how excited it made all the kids cheering on their favorite coaches.

“Everything that is done as an employee with WHLS is team-based, this is important because the work atmosphere creates future leaders and teaches everyone to work together.”

Torremeo treasures her experiences, too. “There are people from my childhood that I think of as mentors and that played a large part in who I am as an adult. Working for WHLS lets you pay it forward and be that mentor for those that join your program.”

Open positions include pool lifeguards, swimming instructors, pool cashiers, camp counselors for Camp Funtastic and Camp Hillcrest, Buena Vista Camp, Elmwood Community Center, Westmoor Park Summer Nature Day Camp, camp assistants, camp counselors for children with special needs, golf course starters and rangers, maintenance workers, and more.

Most of the jobs are full-time for eight or 10 weeks.

When applying, Blanchard offers the following advice. “To apply for a job, go to the website and pick a location you want to work for. Then deliver it to that place. If you want to work at Westmoor Park, go to Westmoor Park and hand someone your application. Those who love animals will probably want to apply at Westmoor Park. If you’re into drama, go apply at Elmwood Community Center.”

And if you have a second choice, “fill out a separate application and hand deliver it to that location,” he advises.

Then, “you will be notified that we received your application and a supervisor will contact you if they want to interview you.”

Most important?

“We want the prospective employee to deliver the application, and if you have questions about the job, call us. We want the employee to ask questions themselves, not the parents.”

Blanchard would like to have hired all the staff needed for summer by May 1, “but we will hire up through the summer if needed,” he said.

And if anyone needs another reason as to why a summer position with the town is a worthy way to spend the summer, Torremeo explains it perfectly.

“Nine years of serving the families of West Hartford has given me countless memories. Highlights have been watching campers shine in talent shows, experiencing a child getting their first hit in tennis baseball, making tie dye t-shirts, field day, and trips to the bowling alley.

“It is truly an amazing, humbling, and rewarding thing to have children who have been campers for years share with you that when they are teenagers they want to be like you and have a job as a Funtastic Counselor.”

Campers look forward to the foam party at the end of the summer session. A huge foam cannon (on the left) cranks up the music while children do some dancing in the bubbles. Courtesy photo

General information about Leisure Services can be found on their webpage on the Town of West Hartford website.

A version of this article also appeared in the April 2022 issue of West Hartford LIFE

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