A Profile of Katrina Dearden by Rachel Estey

Like many college students Katrina spent her summers working a summer job, preparing for the upcoming academic year, and perusing the job boards for the career she was gearing up for. In this particular case Katrina was spending her summers working as a counselor at the summer camp she had attended as a child while preparing for an engineering career. Through the winding, twisting road of young adulthood and career goals, Katrina shifted her focus from engineering to summer camp and has never looked back!

While she was pursuing an engineering degree in school there was still the love of summers at camp. Despite being yelled at by engineering professors for not spending her summers doing engineering stuff, Katrina couldn’t resist going back to camp. The summer after graduation, she was applying to all kinds of engineering jobs and she convinced herself that she would go back for “one final summer” while she waited to hear back from applications and continued to apply for engineering jobs through the summer. She had set a self-imposed deadline that she was going to have a job before camp ended for the summer, and continued to pursue that goal. It was only during the last week and a half of the summer camp season that the director of her camp encouraged her to check out the ACA camp jobs board and upon realizing that working at camp could be a year-round option her “mind was blown!”

She pursued camp jobs with the same intensity as her pursuit of engineering jobs and met her own self-imposed deadline by mere moments. In her own words “Kids were on the bus pulling away and the phone rang and I was offered a job at an outdoor center, I met my self-imposed deadline by minutes, loved the job, and haven’t searched for an engineering job since.” I had the chance to ask Katrina some questions about her life in the camp career she never expected to have!

Rachel: I’ve been thinking a lot about passion and following dreams and the idea that maybe there is something we’re all “meant to do”. What do you think it is that you are meant to do?

Katrina: Definitely something outdoors. I’m at my mentally healthiest when I am outside. I would like to think that it would have something to do with teaching, but not necessarily children. I would want to help people explore nature and see nature in a new way.

What would you be doing right now if you didn’t work in the camp industry? 

If it was in engineering I would probably be a surveyor, being outdoors all the time. There is lots of number crunching. I don’t love numbers, but I like logic.

What is your favorite activity at camp?

 I really like joining the teenage campers in whatever activity they are doing whether it’s canoeing or an arts & crafts activity or anything. When I want to get out of the office one of my office one of my favorite things to do is grab a bag of bananagrams and join up with a random unit that is in unstructured time.

What would you tell college-aged you if you could go back in time?

Change your major! It is possible to be at camp forever!

What are your life plans going forward from here?

I had a strategic plan, but it didn’t work out and that worked out in my favor so I no longer have one. I think I would like to go back to outdoor education eventually, work at a year-round facility. Going from camp to a cubicle every Fall is rough, I’m not meant to spend too much time in an office. Offices AT camp are different because you can get outside, walk around, and enjoy the camp.

The next bunch of questions are definitely weird, but I want to know who you are not just what you do! So, first question…Favorite quote?

My favorite quotes change all the time, but currently it is from Harry Potter and it is “of course this is happening inside your head Harry, but why on earth would that mean it isn’t real?”

It is believed that Plato once said “an unexamined life is not worth living”. In your opinion is that true or false?

If you’re overthinking life you aren’t living it. If you’re examining it too much you’re no longer enjoying it. I think I’m going to say false, because overthinking makes things less enjoyable.

If you were stuck in an airport what magazine would you pick up to read?

I’m not much of a magazine reader, I would consider a National Geographic, but I’d probably pick up a logic puzzle or Sudoku book.

Last question! What is something that you think is true that almost no one would agree with you on?

Fairies are real! They might not exist in the way that people imagine them, write about them, or depict them, but they are out there. Magic is what keeps nature alive.

The winding road from future engineer to summer camp professional lead Katrina to a career she is passionate about, in a field that supports her passion for being outdoors. I am thrilled to have been able to talk to her about her career path, airport reading habits, and love of nature. I’m looking forward to seeing where her life, sans strategic plan, brings her in the future!

Photo: Katrina starts off Color Wars this summer by releasing color powder off of one of her camp's zip lines!