PROFILE: Student Nicole Szachta's 'sunshine summer '
Finding herself in the sunshine state with a new job, roommate, and apartment, Nicole Szachta was nervous, but excited to start the summer that would change her life.
Being just minutes away from the beach, the Clinton Township senior was thrilled to start her new job as a day camp counselor at Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra, Fla. The sandy beaches, tall palm trees, and endless sunshine were huge changes for Szachta compared to Michigan’s unpredictable summers.
From taking kids to the ocean and to paddleboard and surf clinics, Szachta never had a dull moment at work.
“Getting to know all of the kids at work was the greatest part,” Szachta said. “Building relationships with the other counselors was a lot of fun too.
Szachta worked with children between the ages of 5-12 each day over the course of the summer. As a counselor, she supervised as well as engaged in the recreational activities with the kids such as pool days, air hockey and foosball tournaments, movie days, trips to the beach, and surfing and paddleboard clinics.
Being a Special Education major, working with kids is something that Szachta is passionate about. Working as a counselor reinforced her passion to stay in her program at CMU.
“I realized that working with kids is still something that I want to do,” Szachta said. “I feel that it gave me a lot of valuable experience and gave me opportunities to work through difficult situations.”
Szachta heard about the open position as a counselor from a friend who ran the day camp as the family and recreation coordinator. The camp was also open to special needs children, which sparked Szachta’s interest.
“The camp really gave me a lot of experiences, as far as working with large groups of kids,” Szachta said. “I learned how to keep calm during stressful situations. I learned that kids are very temperamental and that I have the patience to handle that.”
Moving from her home in Michigan to a new environment across the country was rough for Szachta. Adjusting became easier as the days went by, making it hard to return home to Michigan once the summer was over.
“It was hard being away from home for that long, but I would like to work as a camp counselor again but a little closer to home,” Szachta said. “The hardest thing about leaving Florida was the fact that I built so many relationships with the kids. I learned so much about each and every one of them and we grew a special bond.”
Living in Florida and working a new job was a life changing experience for Szachta. She grew a lot over the weeks spent away from home, and had one of the greatest learning experiences.
“I learned that children all come from different backgrounds, they all have different personalities,” Szachta said. “I loved seeing the kids grow and come out of their own shell over the weeks. It was nice seeing them open up and become comfortable with us counselors.”