Kids to Hire Their Own Counselors at Steve & Kate's Camps

Steve & Kate:‘After 32 years of conducting interviews, we decided to put hiring power in the hands of those most impacted by the hiring decisions—the kids’

Friday, May 10, 2013 | 1:54 pm

An award-winning children’s day camp known for its guiding philosophy of letting kids decide their own activities today announced plans to dramatically expand its mission of kid-empowerment by directly involving campers in the interview and hiring process for their own camp counselors. Steve & Kate’s Camp,which has grown to include 39 locations in California, Washington and Illinoissince it began operation 33years ago,seasonallyemploys more than 600 college age or older counselors to manage dozens of camp programs from animation and cooking, to stadium sports and water slides.

On May 20, regional directors from Steve & Kate’s Camps will invite campers to join them as interview paneliststo choose counselors for the summerof 2013. Kids will grill their prospective counselors with questions that are both prepared in advance and also posed on the fly, just to keep their future mentors on their toes. Camp counselor applicants who pass the Q&A period will then be put to the ultimate interview test—playing games with kids on the interview panel. Though Regional Directors will retain final say on all hires, they will depend heavily on feedback from the kids and debrief on all interviews with them. The Regional Directors will also conduct final pre-employment steps that include extensive reference calls and background checks, but they’ll rely on kids’ opinions to identify that certain “jenesaisquoi” that makes some people naturals to lead groups of kids.

“After 32 years of conducting interviews, we decided to put hiring power in the hands of those most impacted by the hiring decisions—the kids,” said owners Steve and Kate Susskind. “Steve &Kate’s Camptradition of giving kids control over their own experience runs deep, and stems from our abiding philosophy that self-directed learning is the best way to learn. Instead of rigid structure,we offer campers a world packed with possibilities, and the tools and gentle guidance to help them become autodidacts. Having kids take part in the counselor interview and hiring process is a fun and groundbreaking extension of our mission to give our campers choice.”
At Steve &Kate’s Camp, campers can explore new challenges. One camper dives into stop-motion animation, while another discovers a passion for dance. Or chess. A campercan become engrossed in making the ultimate spaghetti sauce. Or developing Leo Messi-like touch on the soccer pitch.These discoveries are all the more exhilarating because campers make them for themselves. This is a world liberated from adult judgments and expectations, and campers flourish in it.

Steve & Kate’s Camp is equally flexible for parents, liberating them from the frustration of weekly sessions. There are two ways to play: The Day Pass and The Membership. Parents can buy any number of Day Passes and use them anytime. Unused paid passes are automatically refunded in full at summer’s end. The Membership is one fee that covers the whole summer and if a camper doesn’t use enough to justify the cost of the Membership his/her account is converted to Day Pass rate and the difference in cost is refunded automatically. Both plans allow families to attend anytime from 7:30 am to 6 pm, at any location and it even includes lunch and snacks.

Lunch at Steve & Kate’s is a big deal. Chef Nate Keller, former Executive Chef at Google, has joined the team full-time and has developed a culturally diverse menu based on Italian, Mexican, Japanese, American and French cuisines. Some items are adventurous–coq au vin and eggplant parm–and others are kids’ classics–quesadillas and mac & cheese. He uses local and organic ingredients whenever he can and puts healthy twists on items like sneaking cauliflower into the mac & cheese sauce so that the meal is well balanced. Lunch comes alive thanks to the onsite cooks who fire each dish right before the kids eat.In keeping with the philosophy, campers can choose one of six options each day or eat them all if they are ambitious.

Activities include:

Studios: Nestled inconspicuously within Steve & Kate’s are six creative hives where campers lose themselves in uninhibited exploration. Inevitably, campers venture into one or more of them. Inside, they find copious supplies and professional equipment. Each studio is available every day at every location.Studios include: Stop-Motion Animation, Music Recording, Building, Dance, Culinary Arts and Style.

Weekly specials: Each week there is a mind-blowing new thrill –a hurricane water slide, a zip-line, air cannons, rock climbing, obstacle courses, inflatable hamster wheels, water balloon launchers. Expect the unexpected.

Daily specials: Every day of the week has its own special activity. Whether it’s go-kart racing, playing Frisbee® golf, juggling diabolos on a balance board, or traversing a slackline, no two days of the week look the same.

Show Specials: At least once a week, campers are surprised with wild new phenomena—a King Cheetah, a stage combat workshop led by child actors, performances by a young dance troupe, a reptile show with a blue tongue skink and a python. Of course it could also be a 10-year old beatboxer. Or a violin prodigy. Dozens of novel acts grace the stage—many performed by inspiring youth as a way of showing what young people are capable of.

Pure play: The choices for campers are virtually endless. They have a self-serve supply of books, strategy games like chess and Magic cards, thousands of precision-cut construction blocks, foosball, pogo sticks and stilts. They jump into rounds of dodgeball and capture the flag. And win prizes finding the rubber chicken and at Game Show.

Sports: Soccer, hockey, racquet sports and field polo action take place in our custom, kid-sized inflatable stadium, where the ball doesn’t go out and the action rarely stops.

Filmmaker-In-Residence: Camp becomes a movie studio lot each day when campers collaborate as actors and crew with our Filmmaker-in-Residence. Films are scripted, shot and edited, then premiered at Camper Showcase across all of the 39 locations.

Please Note: Specific dates vary by location and are subject to change depending on school calendars. Camp is closed on July 4th. For location and rate information call 415.389.KIDS or go to


“The children that attend Steve and Kate’s blossom and discover a freedom of identity that, in a way, no other institution I’ve experienced has ever managed. Kids find their thumbprint at Steve and Kate’s. My one complaint is: Where were they when I was a kid?”  ––Andrew Stanton, Academy Award-winning writer/director of Finding Nemo and WALL-E

Recent Press:

Variety Magazine (March 26, 2013): Free-Form Camp Fires Up Young Minds by Jon Weisman
Pacific Sun (Best of Marin Issue – April, 2013): Voted Best Summer Day Camp

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