Summer is the busiest time of year for NSSRA, not just because it’s the peak season for camps and trips in addition to regular programming (#zerotofuninsixtyseconds) but also because it’s peak time for our partners too.
Every year we support an average of 1,000 individuals through our Inclusion services so that kids with disabilities can participate in their home district’s programming. Nearly 50% of those individuals are supported during the summer months, giving kids the opportunity to enjoy Camp Wilderness with Glenview Park District or Big Top/Little Top circus camp in Highland Park or Afternoon Adventures Camp in Wilmette (just to name a few).
Last summer NSSRA supported over 400 kids with an army of 300+ cheerful Inclusion companions and a team of six, full-time Inclusion specialists. These specialists, otherwise known as the Inclusion Support Team (IST), join Team NSSRA each summer just to help us keep up with the season’s packed schedule of sunshine, pool time and play time. Most members of IST are either former Inclusion companions or special education teachers during the school year.
Inclusion support removes the barriers that might prevent someone with a disability from full participation in so many of the fun and rich experiences life has to offer, especially at summer camp!
Meet Catherine, one of six incoming Inclusion Support Team members this summer!
What is your history with NSSRA and/or special recreation? How did you come to work with us? When I was younger, I volunteered a few times with NWSRA. For several years, I lost touch with the organization, but my interest sparked again when I moved to Northbrook and one of my college friends told me about the inclusion opportunities that NSSRA offers. The last three summers, I have worked for NSSRA as an Inclusion companion and loved every second of it. I enjoyed forming relationships with my participants, their families, campers, directors and the other counselors. The whole camp experience is so fun and every day is a new adventure. NSSRA is great about not only supporting participants, but staff as well.
Why did you want to join IST? I was looking to take on a larger role upon graduating from college. While I loved being a companion and will miss the one-on-one aspect of the job, this will be a new challenge and I am excited to work as a team with the other ladies. I know this will be a productive, positive learning experience for myself and I hope to make a bigger impact on NSSRA and its participants.
What are you looking forward to this summer? This summer, I am looking forward to starting this new position and getting back into the camp setting that I love so much. I am excited to see the familiar faces of staff and campers!
Meet Cole, one of our Inclusion Companions!
What surprised you about your role when you first started? I was surprised to find out just how in need NSSRA is for Inclusion companions. In some of my assignments, that child would not have been able to be in that class if I had not been able to help out. It is so fulfilling to be in a job where you know that, through your work, you are making a positive impact on your community.
What’s challenging about your job? Being an Inclusion companion, I have gotten to meet new kids who are all unique. It is a challenge, but a fun one, to learn about the kid I’m assigned to and to figure out how I can best help them.
What’s your favorite memory so far? For my first assignment, I was assigned to an ice skating class. I have no clue how to ice skate, so the child I was with was actually teaching me how to skate! We had a lot of fun and it was a new experience for me.
What advice would you have for someone who’s just joined #teamnssra? Don’t be nervous. It can be scary your first day with a new assignment, but the families and their children are extremely grateful for your help. Everyone at NSSRA is friendly, and they all want you to succeed so that everyone that NSSRA helps can succeed.