Invest in the People
Season 1, Episode 3
Make sure you have your swim buddy because we are JUMPING IN! On this episode, Jack Schott, Sarah Kurtz Mckinnon and Carly Vargas dive deep into retention plans (from lenses of money and relationships), balancing camp professionalism and camp fun, AND sending support to those that support your staff. Do you have your coffee? You may need your coffee for all this.
The team addresses what barriers your staff may need to overcome to get to camp, and Kurtz (our resident MBA) draws parallels between staff recruitment and donor relationship building. If you’re looking for more than the average touchstone ideas and ways to invest in your people, this is the pod for you.
Producer EmJ’s takeaways:
Everything you do recruits.
Think about the story you're selling and the audience you want to cultivate.
Sometimes you don't need to be a professional, you just need to be human.
Carly Vargas grew up at Kohut, where she spent many summers as a camper, a counselor, and then a member of the Leadership Team. Carly has a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from Colby College and a Master of Camp Administration and Leadership from Touro University. At Colby, Carly was captain of the Women’s Lacrosse team (NESCAC champions) and coached high school lacrosse in Maine and Massachusetts. After college, Carly worked for the educational recruitment and placement firm Carney, Sandoe & Associates placing teachers and administrators in independent schools K-12 worldwide. While Carly enjoyed staffing, she missed the satisfaction of working directly with young people and joined the Kamp year-round team in 2015. She is now an Associate Director and Head Counselor. Carly was selected to be a board member of the New England American Camp Association, has presented at the ACA New England Camp Conference and the ACA NY/NJ Teen LEADership Conference, and was recently awarded the ACA’s Leadership and Service award.
Carly lives in Cape Elizabeth with her husband Alex, their son Jack, and their dog Libby. She enjoys taking walks with her family and keeping up with friends. Carly enjoys working side by side with her parents, Lisa and Dan, and looks forward to continuing Kohut’s rich legacy into the future.
Sarah Kurtz Mckinnon
When I was a college sophomore enrolled in a highly-competitive college journalism program, I decided the last thing I wanted was to get a stressful magazine internship. Thinking it was my last summer ever to “be a kid”, I decided to apply to work at a summer camp for that year only. I ended up at Ann Arbor YMCA Camp Al-Gon-Quian (AGQ) in Northern Michigan as the newspaper instructor. Instead of staying for just one summer, I haven’t left camp since!
When I was 23 years old, I was hired to be the director of AGQ, becoming one of the youngest YMCA executives in the country. It was a lot of work, of course—but good work. I was alongside of my best friends impacting kids’ lives in a very tangible way. From crafting a positive staff culture to managing million-dollar construction projects, I found great fulfillment in my career in camping.
Camp AGQ became one of the preeminent YMCA camps in the country during my time there. We were widely recognized across the movement for our high staff and camper retention numbers, creative programming and leadership. In 2015, I left AGQ to pursue some new goals: I entered graduate school at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, pursuing my MBA. I also started my own camp consulting and training business, Kurtz McKinnon Creative LLC, where I work with other camps and camp leaders across the country to help them make more camp magic.
I’m interested in making processes and practices at camp more efficient. But I also believe that community is the root of everything good at camp, and that kids, staff and alumni should all feel like camp is a home. As camp leaders, it’s steady mix for us of professionalism, creativity and unconditional love.
When I’m not traveling to different camps or working at them when I can (shout-out to AGQ Family Camp and Camp Tall Tree!), you can find me playing tennis, hangin’ with my husband Robert (who I met through camp, of course!) and our two Brittany Spaniels or working on an art project.
Camp life has given me the good life, and for that I am eternally grateful!